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Unit-pricing labels help shoppers spend wisely

April 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
With food prices rising, is your grocery bill enough to make you choke? One of the best ways to cut those bills is to check unit-pricing labels -- that is if you can find them.

Who isn't looking to save money at the supermarket? The unit-pricing label ought to be your best friend. Good ones make it easy to compare prices. Unfortunately, unit pricing isn't universal.

"Most states don't require unit-pricing. And in those states that do, the labels can vary radically," said Tobie Stanger, a Consumer Reports senior editor. "That can make it difficult to compare prices."

Consumer Reports sent shoppers across the country to assess unit-pricing labels. They found plenty of problems. Some can be really tough to read. In other cases, quantities couldn't be easily compared. Some unit prices are calculated per ounce, some per pound.

"This mishmash of labeling is hurting consumers," said Stanger. "There should be a law that requires a universal standardized unit-pricing label."

Consumer Reports recommends a label that is easy to read and easy to use, listing the unit price, the regular retail price and the sale price.

Currently only nine states require mandatory unit-pricing and California is not one of them. But most large supermarkets in the state do use unit-pricing.