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2000: Tesco bows to imperial pressure

British supermarket Tesco is to revive imperial measures in its stores.

The food retailing giant is returning to pounds and ounces after a survey revealed that nine out of 10 of its customers think imperial when weighing their produce.

European legislation came into force in January to ensure that loose goods are sold in metric at point of sale and that imperial pricing does not take precedence in labelling.

Tesco has found a loophole in the law to use only the traditional scale on in-store promotions.

It will now put both metric and imperial measures on its product packaging and shelving.

Marketing director for the firm Tim Mason said: "It's time to turn the scales in favour of the British customer. They tell us that when it comes to size, imperial matters. We're not anti-Europe, but we are pro-shopper."


"It's time to turn the scales in favour of the British customer"

Tesco's Tim Mason

Tesco carried out the survey of 1,000 people of all ages when their online shopping division revealed that customers were misordering goods.

One shopper ordered 3kg (6.6lb) of broccoli instead of 3lb and another ordered 9kg (19.8lb) of potatoes rather than 9lb.

The Department of Trade and Industry welcomed the move. "We are very keen that retailers play their part in helping customers," the statement read.

The British Weights and Measures Associations is also celebrating the stand taken by Tesco as it claims that the existing regulations are unenforceable and largely ignored by the 40,000 small shopkeepers in the UK.

Sunderland City Council is currently involved in a legal action against grocer Steve Thoburn who had three sets of imperial scales seized by trading standards officers.

Dual labelling is permitted until 2009 under European and UK law.

In context
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) and Brirish Weights and Measures Association took up the cause of so-called "metric martyrs" such as Steve Thoburn.

Steve Thoburn presented a petition of 5,000 shoppers' signatures to Downing Street in support of his imperial measures.

In April 2001 he was convicted of breaking the 1985 Weights and Measures Act and given a conditional discharge.

His costs of 100,000 were met by public donations to the Metric Martyrs' Defence Fund.

In July 2002 Mr Thoburn was refused the right to appeal the decision. He died from a suspected heart attack in March 2004 at the age of 39.

Similar cases have been successfully brought against metric martyrs in Cornwall, London and Surrey.


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