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Heinz faces underweights

It started with a consumer complaint about an underweight plastic ketchup bottle in northern California. Officials there asked the Office of Weights and Measures at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct a multi-state survey of Heinz ketchup.

As PW goes to press, NIST has heard from 35 jurisdictions, and the underweight problem appears to be not California's alone. In fact, as a result of the survey, those 35 jurisdictions have pulled from sale 256꺜 bottles of Heinz ketchup. Both Pittsburgh-based Heinz and NIST are working together to discover the cause of the problem, which involves 28-, 40- and 64-oz bottles filled in both Fremont, OH, and Tracy, CA. Production records, says a Heinz spokeswoman, show net weights were in compliance when the ketchup was packaged. Possible causes for the underweight problem, says Heinz, include evaporation or seepage from the five-layer bottles. Heinz says the bottles are a five-layer construction consisting of polyethylene terephthalate/ethylene vinyl alcohol/PET/EVOH/PET. To prevent underweights from occurring, as of February 20 Heinz modified its existing overfill practice to further increase the overfill of containers to what it calls "superfill" status. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, where more than 80ꯠ bottles were pulled from the market, the city's Licenses and Inspections commissioner, Robert S. Barnett, is fining Heinz $15ꯠ for shortweighting. "We've determined through our inspections that the bottles were shortweighted," says Tom Mc Nally, public relations officer at Licenses and Inspections. "If they want to dispute that claim, they have to do it through the legal process."

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