Standards and Measures

Many Americans feel confident that when they buy a 5-pound bag of flour, a 1-pound loaf of bread, or a pound of butter they will not get less than expected. This was not always the case. In Colonial America, for instance, some millers and bakers tried to increase profits by short-weighting or by adding less costly ingredients such as dried beans or chalk. In 1646, the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a decree specifying how much a loaf of bread was to weigh if it was going to be sold for a penny. Official inspectors had authority to enter a shop suspected of selling underweight bread and to weight loaves on the spot; any loaves found underweight were confiscated. To ensure that consumers got what they ...

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