Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

World Metrology Day 2013

It was 138 years ago that scientists and lay people came together in Paris, France to standardize a measuring system that touches much of our daily lives. Monday, May 20th is the anniversary of the signing of the Metre Convention in 1875.

Today we celebrate International Metrology Day, a day devoted to meters, inches, grams, pounds, kilometers, and anything else that that is weighed or measured. In Utah, and around the world, the assurance of accurate weights and measures is a cornerstone of commerce.

Your car's odometer, a blood pressure monitor and the pound of ground beef you purchase at the grocery store are all connected to the Metre Convention, and so is our State Weights and Measures Program. The program assures consumers that the weight or measure of food and nonfood products, services, or commodities purchased in Utah is correct.

(above) The UDAF Metrology Laboratory houses weight and length standards.
For example it contains the official pound and the official foot and meter.

Our inspectors check the accuracy of tens of thousands of devices such as grocery store check-out scanners, large and small scales and gasoline pumps. Last year they checked more than 22,000 items scanned at grocery stores and other retail outlets. Inspectors scanned items at 394 locations and found that 89 percent of the locations passed inspection.

"Each scanner inspection involves comparing the price of the item listed at the shelf with the price charged at the check-out stand. The vast majority of check-out scanners are getting the prices correct," said Weights and Measures Program Manager, Brett Gurney. "Nevertheless, consumers should keep an eye out for incorrect charges because thousands of items undergo price changes each week, and it's difficult for the store's computers to be 100 per cent accurate all the time," he added.

Center: UDAF Weights and Measures Manager, Brett Gurney, and Dan's Foods price scanner coordinator demonstrate how price checks are performed in grocery stores.

(above) UDAF large scale truck operator Phill Crowther, places sixteen 1000-pound weights on this truck scale at the Perry, Utah Port of Entry during a scale inspection. Each block is certified to weigh exactly 1,000 pounds. Precise testing standards are used in these tests to help UDOT enforce weight limits on semi-trucks on the highways.

Overweight trucks can pose a safety threat to Utah drivers. Tests like these are important to keeping overloaded trucks of the highways.

UDAF Weights & Measures Program inspection results for 2012:
Heavy Capacity Scales
1,160 heavy capacity scales inspected
177 scales failed inspection 15% scales failed inspection

Small Scales
6,260 small scales
157 scales failed inspection 3% scales failed inspection

Gasoline Pumps
16,559 gas pumps inspected 11% gas pumps fail inspection

Retail Scanner Inspections
394 inspections
45 failed inspections
11% of inspections failed
98% accuracy is required (2 out of 100 items).
A store that has a 3% or more error rate (3 out of 100 items) is considered a failed inspection.

The program works within its resources on behalf of Utah consumers to monitor and issue citations to businesses that are not in compliance with State law. Inspectors have authority to issue fines up to $500, and in some cases the fines may rise to $5,000.

The program encourages consumers to register complaints with the Division of Regulatory Services at (801) 538- 7148.

Learn more about World Metrology Day