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Call Kurtis Investigates: Are You Getting Shorted At the Grocery Store?

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Are you really getting everything you’re paying for at the grocery store?

Ralph Greco had a hunch he wasn’t.

Food products for sale are packaged with a printed weight or size — the minimum amount that’s supposed to be in the container for customers.

But how do you know that printed label is accurate? A Call Kurtis investigation decided to test it, with the help of Sacramento County’s Department of Weights and Measures, and found Greco’s hunch may have been correct.

Greco began making breakfast smoothies months ago with The Greek Gods brand kefir — a yogurt-like drink he mixes with other supplements.

It’s helped him lose almost 100 pounds, he told Call Kurtis.

“I’m feeling great,” the newly retired senior said, smiling.

Ralph estimates he has purchased at least 50 bottles, which sell for about $4 each.

But each time he empties one of the 32-fluid-ounce bottles into his measuring cup, he claims he’s shorted — as much as four ounces.

“It just doesn’t seem to be there,” he said.

He said the company wouldn’t listen to his complaint.

Greco demonstrated his routine with Call Kurtis cameras, showing how, after shaking the bottle, his measuring cup shows he was shorted an ounce.

Jackson McCarty of Sacramento County Weights and Measures said that can be a problem.

“If it isn’t 32 ounces, then you’re being cheated,” he said.

If consumers think they’re being cheated, they can alert their county’s weights and measures department, which can test containers scientifically.

Call Kurtis bought two bottles of The Greek Gods kefir and brought them to McCarty to inspect.

McCarty warns home measuring cups sometimes aren’t accurate, so what happens when we use official measuring equipment?

“It should come up right to this red line right here, which is labeled one quart,” he said, explaining how the County measures, using a volumetric flask.

But McCarty is surprised to find the flask isn’t as helpful as it should have been — because the product is short more than the flask is designed to indicate.

“The product is short enough that it doesn’t even register on my scale,” he said.

McCarty found one bottle is about 2 3/4 fluid ounces short.

The other bottle isn’t much better.

“This is a fail,” he said.

When there is a failure, Weights and Measures has the authority to seize products from store shelves, and if the problem continues, they can prosecute.

Call Kurtis brought these findings to the makers of The Greek Gods kefir drink, Hain Celestial Group, which said it does periodic weight checks of its products. The company said its records show they “satisfied the weight specification” on the kefir drink.

“We are reviewing additional processes and procedures to ensure that our products continue to satisfy all regulatory requirements,” a spokesperson said.

Greco likes the product so much, he plans to keep buying it — but he thinks he’s been cheated out of about 35 cents for every bottle he’s bought.

“I’d like to be able to get the whole 32 fluid ounces,” he said.

The state said these 32 ounce bottles are allowed to be up to an ounce short individually, but they have to average out to be at least the full 32 ounces.

For other size containers, how far off is the labeled volume allowed to be? We’ve created an easy-reference table below, or you can access NIST’s guidelines here [PDF] (liquid measurement table starts on page 11).

Labeled Size Allowable Variation
0.5-0.75 fl oz +/- 0.06 fl oz
0.75-2.25 fl oz +/- 0.13 fl oz
2.25-4.25 fl oz +/- 0.19 fl oz
4.25-5.75 fl oz +/- 0.25 fl oz
5.75-7.75 fl oz +/- 0.31 fl oz
7.5-11.75 fl oz +/- 0.38 fl oz
11.75-17 fl oz +/- 0.5 fl oz
17-21 fl oz +/- 0.63 fl oz
21-27 fl oz +/- 0.75 fl oz
27-31 fl oz +/- 0.88 fl oz
31-39 fl oz +/- 1.0 fl oz
39-55 fl oz +/- 1.25 fl oz
55-69 fl oz +/- 1.5 fl oz
69-85 fl oz +/- 1.75 fl oz
85-103 fl oz +/- 2.0 fl oz
103-160 fl oz +/- 2.5 fl oz
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