News item

125th anniversary: The changing face of Notts County Council’s trading standards

Nottinghamshire County Council celebrates its 125th anniversary this month and one of its first services was weights and measures checking which is still going strong in the form of trading standards in the 21st century. 

The weights and measures inspector’s role involved checking the weights and measuring equipment in market places, shops and pubs as well as testing foods to ensure they were correctly labelled and not containing inappropriate ingredients. 

In the first three months of the Council the two weights and measures inspectors devoted more time to testing weights and measures, which included the checking of: 

  • 379 weights and measures 
  • 519 shops and pubs 
  • 22 food samples forwarded for analysis. 

Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Safety Committee, said: “There has always been unscrupulous traders looking to make a quick buck, but the types of scams have changed over the years and the Council’s trading standards team has adapted with the times to protect local consumers. 

“I'm proud to be chair of a service that has been protecting the public so long.” 
The type of products tested over the years changed and in 1914 goods such as gin, beer, butter, cocoa, pepper, rice and flour were analysed. 

A report to the Council’s Weights and Measures Committee in April 1914 noted that the number of traders substituting margarine for butter had dropped. It also noted that margarine had improved in taste and included oils such as whale, linseed and cotton-seed. 

By 1939 the number of samples taken was around 5,000 per year which was mainly (88 percent) made up of milk samples but also included testing of tinned peaches, baked beans and custard powder. 

The Council’s trading standards team has broadened its role in the 21st century to address non-food related consumer issues such as internet scams, doorstep crime, dangerous electrical items and the mis-selling of products and services. 

In the first quarter of last year the team received 2,864 complaints which was led by second-hand care sales followed by home maintenance issues. 

Last year the team started 37 criminal proceedings with offences including counterfeit alcohol, cigarettes and clothing, part worn tyres, unroadworthy vehicles, unsafe home gym equipment and fraud. 

“Victorian scams included adulterating food products with chemicals such as chalk in flour and lead in chocolate, which was particularly problematic when many small shops at the time made their own products on site. 

“Food fraud also was more common in the early days of the Council due to the ingredients and manufacture of foods being more expensive. 

“A greater problem in the 21st century is counterfeit cigarettes and alcohol which often contain higher rates of toxic substances than genuine products along with broader consumer issues such as doorstep crime and internet fraud. 

People who have consumer issues or complaints should contact the Citizen’s Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06. 


Pic: Current day Nottinghamshire County Council trading standards officer Paul Gretton testing a set of scales in a recreation of Victorian shop using antique testing equipment.

DATE: 10 April 2014