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MAV and Label weight in Food Industry

Product weight is very critical in the food industry. Food products are produced and sold based on the net contents of the package. Customers read weight information on food labels before they buy food products. Regulatory agencies monitor manufacturers for product weight. Based on the food product, the regulatory agency varies. For example, US department of agriculture (USDA) regulates meat and poultry, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food, drugs, medical devices, and Environmental protection agency regulates pesticides.

Regulatory agencies actually monitors two types of product weight: one is the net weight and the other is the MAV. What are these two weights? What's the difference and significance of these weights? We will start with the definition of these weights.

MAV stands for Maximum Allowable Variation. It is the maximum weight deviation allowed from the label stated weight on the individual package of the food product. Products that weigh below the MAV value are not acceptable. NIST handbook 133 details the test procedures used to check net weights for food products. This standard goes through weight control for food packaged by weight, volume, count etc.
Label weight
The weight that is declared on the label of the package. This weight indicates the net contents of the package and is seen by customers see when they buy food products.

What is the difference and significance of these weights?

MAV values are provided by the regulatory agency. For a specific product based on the label weight or volume, MAV values can be found by referring to lookup tables. MAV values are closely linked to the label weights.

Based on the type of food product there are different categories and the number of MAV violations permitted per lot.

Packages that are below the MAV value are considered unreasonable errors. And if food manufacturers find x number packages in violation to MAV then the lot cannot be shipped.... x being specified for by the regulation.

Food companies have to check:
The label weight or the net contents of individual packages

  • MAV values and number of MAV violations
  • Average net contents of the packages in a lot - generally this value is at lea st equal to the net quantity of contents declared on the label
MAV is important as it considers variation in weight/volume on the manufacturing side. Every manufacturer has to deal with process variation. Because of this inherent variation that is present in all processes, the food products have variation in weight/volume. To account for this variation, MAV checks were introduced.

Packages that are below the MAV specified value are considered unreasonable errors. Such shortages are not permitted and must be accounted for by manufacturing. Tighter control for weight/volume in manufacturing can help.

MAV checks in manufacturing guarantees the end customer with every food package as close as possible to the label weight. The vast majority actually being equal to the label weight.

Food products that contain moisture have to account for loss of moisture when monitoring weights. Manufacturers that produce flour and flour products, meat and poultry products, etc. have to account for the loss or gain of moisture in their products when doing their weight checks.

Scale calibration, tare weights of empty packages and net weights are some of the areas that manufacturers need to pay close attention to. Regulatory agencies also inspect and monitor these aspects in production.

Weight and volume control in the food industry is very critical. Testing food products for label weight and MAV values are regulatory requirements. Food companies need to monitor all products they make for these weights. And they need systems that will alert appropriate personnel in the plant as soon as the first package falls below any of the specified weight requirements. Only then product and lots that have weight/volume which is below the reasonable limit will not leave the factory. This ensures end customers get the exact quantity of food product they purchased.