Weights & Measures

Things You Should Know About Weights & Measures
By: Sandy Buxton
Cornell Cooperative Extension

How does a customer know that what they just paid for is actually what they received?
The system that provides this public trust is a carefully regulated process. Controlled by New York State Agriculture and Markets, there are local offices in each county to oversee the equipment and the vendors who are weighing and selling products in their stores, at the market, or through a pump.

Basic Rules
There are some very basic rules that are important for everyone to know.
  • If you are selling something by weight, you are responsible to make sure that at least the listed amount of weight is contained by the package.
  • All scales must be certified by weights and measures prior to using them for weighing out products. The vendor is responsible for purchasing an approved device and having it certified by a local weights and measures official. Many scales available at common retail outlets are not appropriate for use, visit the Department of Agriculture and Markets website for a list of approved commercial devices.

    Do not wait to call, it should be done immediately. At this time there is no fee in Washington County to have equipment certified but that could change and other counties do charge. There is also a fine for not using approved scales and for every mis-weighed unit available for sale.
  • The local official, under the auspices of New York State Agriculture and Markets, may come out to your business, farmers’ market stand, roadside stand or other selling venue and check to make sure that your products and labels agree on what is being sold. They also:
    • Enforce the laws and regulations
    • Inspect and test weighing and measuring devices used commercially
    • Inspect and test packaged commodities
    • Regulate commercial weighing and measuring practices used by vendors
    • Investigate consumer and business complaints
  • Agriculturally related vendors who need to be aware of the rules and make sure they are abiding by them include:
    • Maple producers who sell by weight and volume
    • Meat producers who must make sure that the scales weighing and labeling their products have been inspected and certified.
    • Cheese and dairy producers who are selling by weight and volume
    • Fruit who are selling by weight as well as the size of berry boxes may be checked.
    • Vegetables who are using scales to sell products by weight
    • Other possible concerns – Bakers if products are labeled by weight, roadside stands who weigh out many products.
Commercial Inspections
Weights and measures officials throughout the state routinely inspect a wide range of commercial devices and packaged commodities to assure accurate measure in the marketplace. These inspections serve to eliminate from the marketplace those devices and packages that do not provide an accurate measure of the commodities or services that are exchanged. The inspections involve more than just accuracy tests, as the official must verify that the device or package meets other operational and/or marking and labeling requirements.

Commercial Devices Inspected
Officials inspect only commercial devices, that is, those used in the weighing or measuring of commodities for sale and those used to measure services rendered on the basis of weight or measure. Gas pumps, grocery store and deli scales, and truck mounted oil meters are some of the more common devices inspected. Devices such as taximeters, farm milk tanks, wire and cordage meters, and berry baskets also fall under the jurisdiction of weights and measures.
Mission Statement
The Sealer of Weights and Measures assures measurement accuracy of all measuring devices used for commercial transactions within Washington County.  This includes, but is not limited to, measurement of quantity, weight, linear measure (length) and count.  Applying NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets laws Article 16 and NYS Code of Rules and Regulations parts 220,221,222,223 and 224 accomplish enforcement.