Download our Guide to the Average Quantity System.
The average quantity system (AQS) is an internationally agreed method of determining the measurement of prepacked articles with a ‘constant nominal content’. This means it provides confirmation of the measurement or quantity of goods sold by measure (weight, volume, length or area) or count (number of items).
AQS is based on recommendations developed by OIML (OIML R 79 Labelling Requirements in Prepackages and OIML R 87 Quantity of Product in Prepackages) and is intended for use in large-scale packaging plants where goods (e.g. breakfast cereals) are packed in the same quantity in large numbers.
After extensive industry and consumer consultation, the Australian Government decided to introduce AQS on a voluntary basis. Under national trade measurement legislation, manufacturers, packers and importers can choose:
AQS provides a 97.5% assurance that goods are the correct quantity within the prescribed tolerances. These tolerances are proportional to the quantity of product and related difficulty of accurate filling.
Note: Australian AQS requirements align fully with OIML recommendations and may differ from those of some other countries that do not fully implement the OIML recommendations. Importers should be aware of these differences when importing products using AQS.
AQS gives manufacturers and packers an opportunity:
Packers and importers have a duty to carry out sufficient checks to ensure that all batches of prepacked articles meet the legislative requirements for correct measurement. The company does not need to follow the sampling requirements illustrated below for trade measurement inspectors, but strongly recommend implement testing procedures and practices that provide a statistically robust and verifiable measure for compliance with these requirements.
When inspectors visit premises to inspect prepacked articles they will be checking what policies and procedures are in place to ensure the articles on the premises are the correct measurement. Inspectors will request information about:
If inspectors decide that that they need to test products to assess the validity of these procedures, the testing will be performed at the manufacturing or packing site as outlined below.
Because AQS and the UTML systems operate concurrently, inspectors need to be able to identify which measurement system has been used.
If you choose to adopt the AQS in your business, you must mark the prepacked articles with the AQS e-mark which is defined in the regulations as the letter ‘e’. The shape, size and location of the e-mark must be:
In the case of imported products with an e-mark, the inspector would not normally have access to the production records from the overseas manufacturer, and may require the products to be tested from the warehouse. However, testing is not always required as Australia has mutual recognition agreements with some countries, and products manufactured in those countries may have been assessed by the relevant exporting government authority.
Australian manufactured prepacked articles without an e-mark will be assessed for compliance with the current UTML system and tested by trade measurement inspectors accordingly. These packages may also be tested at the point of sale.
Packers must be aware that it is an offence to mark a package with a mark that is not an AQS e-mark but which is likely to give the impression of being one.
‘Shortfall’ is a term used throughout the packaging sections of the national trade measurement legislation. It means the extent to which production or output falls short of expectation.
Where a package is tested in accordance with national single article test procedure, there is a shortfall simply if the measured quantity of a package’s contents falls short of the declared quantity marked on the package.
In other cases, the term refers to the failure of a group of packages of the same kind when tested according to AQS or non-AQS (UTML) rules. While a large proportion of the packages in a group may be compliant, if a shortfall has occurred then the whole group of packages cannot be sold and the packer must take remedial action.
The AQS threshold is the lot size from which the sample number of prepackages is selected. The sample will be inspected to decide if the lot conforms with AQS requirements. These are the requirements stipulated for an inspector to assess for compliance with regulation, as distinct from a testing program adopted by industry. These thresholds are given in Table 1.
Table 1. Inspection lots and sampling requirements
An inspector will select a sample from a lot of packages at random in accordance with generally accepted statistical sampling practice. If the sample selected from a lot of packages produced on a production line:
Testing for compliance with the AQS involves testing against the following three rules:
Table 2. Tolerable deficiencies in actual content of prepackages (from regulation 4.36 of the National Trade Measurement Regulations)
This figure shows the typical measurements of packages illustrating the use of Q and T values.
In Table 3, 3 500 packs of butter are identified as the lot. Using Table 1, 125 packs of butter are chosen at random as the sample or threshold. Table 2 shows that a 500 g net package is allowed a T of 3% or 15 g. Therefore an inadequate package (T1 error) is allowed to contain between 485 g and 470 g.
A package weighing less than 470 g would be more than twice the tolerable deficiency and would fail rule 3 (T2 error). The reference test identifies two inadequate packages, no packages with a T2 error and an average net weight of 501 g. Therefore the packs of butter pass all three rules.
If potatoes had been chosen from Table 3, an inspection lot of 148 would have resulted in a sample or threshold size of 50 packages. Table 2 indicates a T of 1.5% (45 g) for a 3 kg bag. The reference test identifies no inadequate T1 packages and one inadequate T2 package. The lot fails the reference test because of the one inadequate T2 package when none are permitted under rule 3.
Consider packages of oysters labelled ‘12 Pacific oysters’. There are a total of 150 packs which make up the lot. Therefore, using Table 1, 50 packages must be chosen at random to form the sample.
Testing identifies that 49 out of 50 packages contain a dozen oysters and one package contains 11 oysters. This means the lot fails because under Table 2 no deficiency is allowed.
A second example involves the inspection of mild steel washers. Each of the 500 packages contains 200 washers, according to their labels. Therefore the sample size is 50 packages chosen at random. Testing identifies five packages that contain 197 washers. Table 2 shows that the tolerable deficiency for packages containing more than 50 items is the nominal quantity (Qn) x 1% (T = 200 x 1%) or two items. Because the number of inadequate T1 packages permitted would be three (using Table 1) the lot fails the reference test.
The main laws covering trade measurement are the National Measurement Act and the National Trade Measurement Regulations.
For more information contact 1300 686 664, firstname.lastname@example.org or use our on-line form.
What does the AQS mean for my business?
AQS sampling procedures
AQS test procedures
Examples of AQS testing
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