by Kristin Macey, Director, CDFA Division of Measurement Standards
With the “Farm to Fork” concept getting more and more attention, it’s worth noting that it’s essential to maintain the integrity of commerce as food products move from farm to fork.
In observing National Weights and Measures week (March 1-7), CDFA’s Division of Measurement Standards (DMS) protects both businesses and consumers in commerce by ensuring fair competition and accurate value comparisons. DMS works closely with county sealers of weights and measures, who carry out the vast majority of weights and measures inspection activities at the local level.
At the beginning of the farm-to-fork journey, farmers and ranchers purchase the materials they need to produce their harvest. Accordingly, weights and measures officials are busy reviewing labels and testing feed, seed, fertilizer, plastic pipe, lumber, herbicides, etc. to make sure these production inputs measure up to their stated net weight, measure, or count.
When commodities are transported from the farm, it is important to both buyer and seller that products are being weighed or measured accurately. This is one reason why DMS licenses weighmasters providing independent assurance that scales are not doctored and that the weights recorded are accurate. Weighmaster certificates validating scales are legal documents used as the basis to buy or sell commodities. Today, more than $80 billion a year changes hands in California’s economy based on weighmaster certificates.
Foods complete the farm-to-fork trip via retail grocery outlets, or through community supported agriculture, or certified farmers markets. All along this leg of the journey, packaged products are subject to inspection to verify that labeling is truthful and the net content statements are accurate. All scales used by grocers or at farmers markets are routinely inspected, tested, and sealed by county inspectors, so consumers can have confidence they’re getting their money’s worth.
There are over 300 state and county employees who perform this type of work in California. They are largely unseen, but the fruits of their labors are everywhere. Please join me in wishing them a happy Weights and Measures Week!