Price Labels on Food in Massachusetts Could Disappear

Under a bill signed by Governor Deval Patrick, grocery stores and other businesses selling food would be allowed to file an exemption from having to put price labels on many items. Retailers would have to provide scanners, and label shelves clearly displaying how much an item costs. Opponents say scanners could be unreliable, forcing consumers to guess the price of a particular food. Retailers say scanners are more accurate than manual pricing of goods. Brian Houghton is the Vice President of the Massachusetts Food Association, a trade group for the grocery industry. He says consumers are already used to not having certain foods individually marked. He says certain dairy items and frozen foods have been exempt from stickers for several years.

 “You’re not having your juices priced, your frozen foods are exempt. Eggs, milk, certain other products and other categories are exempt already, so folks aren’t really relying on the stickers as much as they think they are when they go to a food store to shop.”

Another requirement is retailers cannot lay off employees who formerly priced goods. Suzi Robinson is a spokesperson for the Stop and Shop chain of supermarkets. She says those employees will be freed up for other tasks.

 “From a business prospective for us, it helps us redeploy our associates who would normally be focused and dedicated to labeling items to then be able to do other tasks around the store. In particular, to focus on better customer service and improving the shopping experience.”

Food retailers are awaiting specific rules from state regulators before being able to apply for waivers. The law becomes effective January 1st.