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CONSULTATION LAUNCHED ON FOOD AND DRINK MEASURES           

Proposals aimed at giving consumers more choice over the measures of food, drink and alcoholic beverages they can buy in the UK were published for consultation today by the National Weights and Measures Laboratory.

It could see restrictions lifted on the sizes in which unwrapped bread and other food are sold, together with proposed changes to allow wine to be sold in smaller measures for tasting and sampling purposes.

The consultation also asks for views on whether draught beer and cider should be available for sale in a new imperial measure. It consults on whether a new two-thirds of a pint measure should be available to drinkers alongside the current legal measures of a pint, half- a pint and a third of a pint. This has been proposed by the beer and pub trade to allow greater flexibility in the service of draught beers, especially those with a higher alcohol content.

Views are also being sought on removing the current requirement for most pre-packaged goods in the UK to be sold in fixed sizes. This would mean the removal of specified packaging sizes for over 30 types of food. The aim is to increase consumer choice at the same time as giving businesses greater freedom over the pack sizes they produce for foods such as cereals, bread and tea.

The consultation asks separately for views on whether to retain fixed sizes for specific foods - dried pasta, butter, coffee, milk and white sugar - for a limited time.

The main proposals offered for consultation are whether:

To allow two thirds of a pint of draught beer and cider to be served in addition to the third of a pint, half pint and pint - proposed by the beer and pub trade;

To allow very small glasses of wine, below 75 ml, to be served - proposed by the wine and restaurant trade to be used for wine tasting and sampling;

To allow unwrapped bread to be sold in any size – giving consumers the choice to buy exactly what they need;

Fortified wines should continue to be subject to set measures;

The quantities of wine permitted to be sold by the glass are sufficient to protect public health.

The consultation will invite views from consumer bodies, retailers, licensed premises and other interested parties which will inform new legislation. It is open from today until 1 January 2009.