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German food manufacturers now allowed to "supersize"

It's the revolution of the German supermarket shelves; after years of strict regulations on packaging sizes, starting this Saturday, most food items may be sold in any size or volume.

A woman does her grocery shopping

Some claim the regulations give manufacturers more room for innovation, and more freedom for consumers

The changes come after Germany was forced to harmonize its packaging regulations with those set out by the European Union.

This means that items such as chocolate no longer have to be sold in packages weighing either 100 grams or 85 grams.

Other items that will now enjoy free reign on their size are beer, milk, water and fruit juice. The volume of wine and spirits, however, will remain under strict regulation.

No more gorging for lonesome singles

Retail groups like Germany's retail federation, HDE, claim the changes will be consumer friendly, and will better cater to a wider market, with singles and the elderly able to buy items in smaller packaging.

A woman reaches for a milk carton

It may no longer be so easy to compare prices when shopping for things like milk

Ulrike Hoerchens of HDE doesn't expect many changes to be introduced for many of the products, including milk.

"Consumers are familiar with the package size for milk and there's little reason to them change that," she said.

Instead, Hoerchens said reasons to alter packaging sizes will be driven by marketing.

"For example, a bar of chocolate can now be 20 or 30 percent bigger," she told the German news agency DPA.

A "simple scam"

There is much opposition to the new regulations, with consumer-protection groups fearing manufacturers will use deceptive packaging -- with smaller volumes, but equal prices.

"It's going to open the floodgates to scam packaging," Gerd Billen of the Federation of German Consumer Organizations said.

He believes such scams would operate under the simple principle of "less inside but for the same price".

Armin Valet from the Hamburg consumer group, Verbraucherzentrale Hamburg agrees.

"Consumers won't notice it," he said.

Valet claims such practices already occur for items that haven't had such strict regulations, such as cleaning products and cosmetics.

In recent years, the consumer group has exposed many hidden price increases for such items of more than 20 percent. Valet says it often happens when manufacturers offer what consumers see as attractive prices -- such as 1.99 or 19.99 euros.

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