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    Pre-packaged goods: Product quantity certification scheme


    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2010

    Pre-packaged commodities are estimated to account for more than 75% of the total value of traded commodities worldwide. However, exports of many pre-packaged consumer products from developing countries are often hampered by lengthy border control procedures or even rejected, due to non-conformity to indicated quantity of product.1

    To eliminate these trade barriers, the International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML) is currently developing the 'international quantity mark' (called IQ-mark for the interim), a voluntary international system of certification for pre-packaged goods. The system aims to facilitate trade by reducing time spent at borders due to quantity checks and giving buyers the confidence that the goods meet their specifications.

    The complexities of quantity control

    Most countries have legislation to control the quantity of product in pre-packaged goods based on a so-called average system, which requires a sample to be taken to determine if the lot is acceptable.

    However, testing at the point of sale destroys the pre-packaged product and is not always feasible, as often not enough items are available for sampling.

    The solution is to control at the point of packing. Increasingly, however, packing does not take place in the same country as where the product is sold to the consumer. In general, countries do not control exported products or have the facilities or the resources to check all imported lots of pre-packaged product. OIML has published two recommendations to facilitate trade in pre-packaged goods: OIML R 87, which deals with the quantity of product in pre-packages, and OIML R 79, which covers labelling requirements for pre-packaged products.

    OIML certification system for pre-packages

    OIML is developing a certification system for the quantity of product in pre-packages which aims to:

    • Provide confidence in the declaration of the nominal quantity on pre-packages;
    • Promote the uniform declaration of the nominal quantity;
    • Facilitate trade in pre-packaged products; and
    • Increase the efficiency of the control of pre-packages by authorities.

    In addition, OIML is currently developing the system requirements for packers and certification bodies.

    Similar to the existing e-marking requirements of the European Union (EU), the OIML certification system will provide evidence that pre-packaged exports meet quantity requirements when imported into countries that have implemented the provisions of OIML R 87 and R 79. However, the EU's e-mark is a self-declaration by the packer which does not involve third-party certification at the time of packing. The packer has to demonstrate its ability to control the quantity of product before being allowed to use the e-mark, but in many cases this is not enforced in the country of origin. Subsequently, authorities in receiving countries generally have no confidence in the quantity statement on imported pre-packages carrying the e-mark. The OIML certification system will include surveillance of the packer by the certification body to ensure continued compliance of products that carry the OIML mark, providing more confidence to authorities and reducing the need for border controls.

    The Design of the System

    Depending on national legislation, participation from private and public entities will be voluntary for packers and certification bodies. Acceptance of certificates by national authorities is also voluntary. The system will be managed by a management committee, consisting of OIML country representatives who have designated certification bodies or experts that they have appointed to represent them.

    Designation of a certification body will follow after assessment and approval of their application, which is notified to the OIML bureau for registration purposes. The designated certification bodies may then register packers producing pre-packages in the scope of the certification system and specified in the certificate issued to the packer. Certificates (or at least their references and scope) will be published by the certification bodies on their respective websites. Pre-packages covered by a certificate under the system may bear the IQ-mark, which will enable inspectors to trace the certificate's validity.

    National authorities will not be obliged to accept the certificates issued under the system. In a lot of countries, however, authorities may rely on evidence that pre-packages placed on their national markets comply with national legislation. Some authorities may want to accept only certificates issued by other authorities and the system allows for that. But it is hoped that the system will produce credible results and eventually evolve to become a mutual recognition system.

    For more information, visit www.oiml.org  or contact Willem Kool at Willem.Kool@oiml.org
    1'Quantity of product' is also referred to as content or net content.


    for Pre-Packages

    OIML is an intergovernmental organization working to harmonize national regulations dealing with metrology (measurements and measuring instruments). OIML publishes recommendations that serve as model regulations and are international standards under the terms of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. OIML member countries have a moral obligation to implement OIML recommendations in their national legislation as far as possible.