/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Some packs of salmon are punching below their weight

Smoked salmon in kitchen scales

I’m not in the habit of weighing my shopping after I buy it, and I’m sure that’s the case for most people. But maybe I should start – if our snapshot sample of supermarket smoked salmon is anything to go by…

Getting 10% off my shopping would normally be something I’d welcome. But I got a reduction of a less desirable kind when I bought a pack of smoked salmon from Tesco that weighed almost 10% less than it said on the pack.

This pack was one of 32 we bought and weighed from Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco when researching the weight of smoked salmon. The majority of packs bought from each supermarket were underweight, with the Tesco pack being the most extreme example.

Almost 80% packs were underweight

I was prompted to go trawling through supermarkets for salmon after a tip-off from Which? member Loz Farmer. He told us that during the past two years he’d bought four packs of Sainsbury’s smoked salmon and found them to be around 10% short when he’d weighed them.

When we bought our own samples, 25 of the 32 – nearly four out of five – weighed less than the amount stated on the packs. The other seven packs weighed more.

The ‘200g’ pack of Tesco Everyday Value Smoked Salmon actually contained 181.5g when we weighed it, meaning it was underweight by just over 9%. We believe this breaks Trading Standards rules.

Where do you draw the line?

Shops have to follow various rules about how much their products are allowed to stray from the weight stated on the pack. The most straightforward one is that no single pack can be underweight by a certain amount. How much depends on how big the pack is – smaller packs are given less margin for error – but for products between 100-200g, like most packs of smoked salmon, it’s 9%, so the Tesco salmon was just outside this margin.

When we took our findings to Tesco, it told us that:

‘Our records show that the weight of the products tested conformed to industry standards. It’s not uncommon for some of the oil in smoked salmon to transfer to the packaging while on the shelf.’

But there were other packs we bought that were also underweight but didn’t fall outside of the margin for error, such as a ‘200g’ pack that actually weighed 189g. I’d be pretty annoyed if I found out I was getting short-changed like that on my shopping – but at the same time, it’s impossible to have everything weigh exactly the same down to a single gram, so I can understand that there’s a need for a margin for error.

Have you bought food that weighs less than it should? Do you think the rules on weights are tough enough?


Years ago, I worked at a pub in Derby. Part of my job was to weight the steaks that were advertised as “Average uncooked weight 8oz”. if I found any that were 8oz or over, I reported them to the landlady, who then screamed down the phone at the supplier and refused to pay for those of or over the average weight.

I have no doubt that all suppliers of goods by weight rarely meet their standards. However, with such evidence as Which? has I am surprised that action against Tesco is not possible. Their explanation that ~20g (¾oz) if oil is in the packaging seem, on the face of it, a ridiculously high weight.

Tim Burrell says:
26 December 2012

I’m doing battle with M&S on this issue at present having found that both this year and last year packs I bought were 5% underweight. ie only 380gms in a 400 gms pack. I’ve since taken my scales into two other branches of M&S and weighed stock on the shelf. Out of some thirty packs that I weighed virtually all were 5% underweight. Only two were nearly full weight. I had previously weighed the packaging at home so I could ascertain the net weight. I understand the “e” symbol after the weight means that there will be variations, but the stated weight will be an average. I’ve estimated that M&S must sell at least 100tons of smoked salmon over the xmas period. 5% of this is 5 tons. Retail price of which is over £100,000. Something must be done about this massive fraud.

It is interesting when you add it all up, as 5% is within the allowed discrepancy. But if they all go under what is said I can see how they might take advantage of it.

Barry Maguire says:
26 December 2012

I to bought a 400 gram pack of smoked salmon from M&S which I decided to divide into 4 portions of 100 grams and discovered the last portion was only 66 grams. I reweighed all the salmon and it was only 366 grams. The packaging weighed 64 grams meaning that package on the shelf must have weighed 420 grams.
I’ve since contacted M&S and they’ve asked me to return the packaging to the M&S food technologists which I have and they are sending me vouchers as a refund. This would suggest that at least one retailer is taking the matter seriously.

Yesterday I bought some bananas from Tesco .

The label says 1005g but my jewellery scales say (after weighing each of the 6 bananas and adding the score up) weigh 976.2g . That’s a difference of 28.8g or an ounce-ish .

Same as their Princes spring water tuna . Lost 22.6g per can after draining . Can said 112g drained , I got 89.4g .

£2.00 for 89g of canned tuna !!!!!!!

Terrible .

Like being back in the 19th Century when the chalk was added to flour .

Andrew says:
18 June 2014

I just weighed three bags of Tesco own-label popcorn that I bought from them last week. They should have 90g in each bag, but have come in at 65g, 65g and 70g (including the packaging). I also checked my scales by weighing several other products, all of which were spot on – they are very accurate. Not impressed!

Jenny Pesca says:
1 July 2014

Moan moan moan, you guys need to get a life!

A saying you trot out on a regular basis to denigrate those who do not meet your exacting standards. Jenny !
You obviously take the trouble to read the posts so why not make a positive contribution instead?

Laina West says:
3 June 2016

Interestingly, I am challenging Tesco on this very point today! The pack of smoked salmon I bought labelled 200g weight, was only 168g. I emailed them and got this chirpy reply!

Hi Laina,
Nice to hear from you, hope you’re well.
I’m so sorry to hear that you’re unhappy with the weight of the smoked salmon that you had delivered recently, and for any inconvenience this may have caused you.
Thanks for bringing this matter to my attention and for attaching your photo 🙂
Having looked into this further for you I can confirm the net average weight of this product (salmon) is 150g as advertised and described on our website.
I hope this information helps and if you require any further assistance, just pop me an email.
Have a lovely evening.
Kind regards,

An equally chirpy reply has been sent, quoting the government guidelines on food labelling as I consider this to be inaccurate and misleading. I await a reply!