Wisconsin Tonight

Oscar Mayer in trouble for underweight meat packages

CREATED Feb. 4, 2013

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WAUKESHA - They say you get what you pay for. But, with Oscar Mayer deli meat, that may not be true.

"I do compare prices," said shopper Kelly Bahr. "I expect there to be what it says inside the package."

State inspectors checked more than 131 20oz. 'Family Size' packages of Oscar Mayer cooked ham and honey ham. They found about nine underweight below government standards..

"The products were short weight; so basically, consumers were paying for a product they didn't receive," said Sandy Chalmers, the state's consumer protection administrator. "Machines are not perfect. Processes are not perfect. So, there is some tolerance. But, what we found in this case was definitely an unreasonable shortage."

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection found underweight packages at stores including a Piggy Wiggly in Racine, the Watertown Walmart and a Walmart in Waukesha. The state says the mistake would have resulted in customer overcharges as high as 46-cents per package.

As part of an agreement with the state, Oscar Mayer will install checkweighers on production lines at an estimated $10 million cost to the company. The company will also pay a fine of $13,911.50.

This is third time the state has levied a fine against Kraft, Oscar Mayer's parent company. In 2011, inspectors found underweight Oscar Mayer Light Beef Franks in Milwaukee and Ozaukee Counties. In 2012, the state penalized the company for quantity problems with Kraft Deli Deluxe cheese slices.

A Kraft/Oscar Mayer spokesperson declined an on-camera interview. The company released this statement:

Quality is very important to our company. That includes product weight. Oscar Mayer produces several hundred million packages a year and we work to ensure the correct amount of food is placed in each and every one. The State of Wisconsin cited us for nine packages that were slightly short. This was an unplanned and unwanted variance. We have looked at the cause with a team of experts and have made changes in our plant to strengthen our process. This includes making a substantial capital investment to improve our production line. We are working diligently to ensure compliance.

We respect the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and their work, and are pleased to have settled with them on this matter so we can focus on making our great-tasting, high-quality products for consumers.

To file a consumer complaint, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection on the web at http://datcp.wisconsin.gov; via e-mail at datcphotline@wi.gov; or call toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.