Illinois Department of Agriculture Fuels and Measures Inspections protect consumers

Whenever you buy lunchmeat at a supermarket deli, the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Weights and Measures makes sure you get exactly what you pay for. The same holds true at the gas pumps.

“Our bureau of 26 field members and four office staffers inspect 134,000 weights and measurement devices each year, including all scales ranging from those found on delicatessen counters to the huge weigh-station scales that police use on the interstates for large trucks,” says Doug Rathbun, chief of the IDOA Bureau of Weights and Measures. “We also check gas pumps to make sure that when a customer pumps 15 or 20 gallons into their vehicle, they get precisely 15 or 20 gallons. By law, the bureau is required to inspect every scale and gas pump in Illinois at least once every year.”

Rathbun says stores and gas stations are not given any advance warning when they are about to be inspected. “We just show up,” he says. “The businesses are expected to always dispense the correct amount of fuel, or weigh their commodities appropriately. If not, they face hefty fines and potential closure.”

Mike Rockford, state metrologist for the Bureau of Weights and Measures, oversees the Standards Laboratory in Springfield where the exact calibrations for mass (weight) and volume (measures) are set. “Not only do we make sure that the customer is getting what they pay for, but we also protect the people selling the products, making sure they aren’t giving away too much,” he says.

Exact Measurements

Rockford says calibrations for weights at the Standards Laboratory range from 5,000 pounds to 1 milligram, while calculations for volume range from 500 gallons to 1 gallon.

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“For example, we have precise one-pound weights that we give our field staff. They will enter a grocery store, place that one-pound weight onto a deli scale, observe the digital readout from the scale, and make sure customers are indeed getting one pound of turkey, ham or corned beef when they order,” he says. “Grain elevators, asphalt plants, livestock auctions – wherever there are public scales, our bureau checks them.”

Rockford says the bureau also performs official weigh-ins that take place at the Illinois State Fair. “That’s so the fair can categorize all the animals into appropriate weight classes prior to judging,” he says. “The cows we document vary in weight from 1,000 to about 1,800 pounds, and we also weigh every lamb, sheep and hog that will be entered into competition.”

Detecting the Unexpected

Rockford adds that the precision scales in the Standards Laboratory are so sensitive that they have actually picked up vibrations from far-away earthquakes and major weather disturbances.

“Our bigger scales, called mass comparators, detected a tsunami in Indonesia as it was happening in 2009, plus we received readouts as an earthquake was occurring in Baja California in 2010,” he says. “We have access to amazing advanced equipment here at the Bureau of Weights and Measures.”


  1. I have been shopping at Joe Caputo’s Market at 100 S. Randall Rd. Algonquin, Illinois. They do not take tares on many of their fresh meat sold there. I don’t know how to get in touch with your department.

  2. On Saturday evening at about 9:30 pm I stopped for gas at a Loves gas station on I55 and mile marker 220 (Dwight). My tank was at 1/2 tank but I wanted a break from driving.
    My gas tank holds about 16 gallons. I buy the premium gas at 93 octane. I started pumping and watched the meter while my wife went to the bathroom. Upon her return the pump was still going and going very slow. At this point I went to the bathroom. Upon my return the pump was still going. this was at about 10 minutes. Finally it stopped and it said I had added to my half full tank another 12.5 gallons. I had driven only 147 miles and usually go over 300 on 1 tank of gas.
    I feel that the pump was making a mistake as I have never seen a pump run this slow and at 1/2 tank I should not have put in more than 8 gallons!
    Please look into this and get back to me.

    Mike Gallagher
    4019 west 25th place

  3. I was at the Pacemaker Country Market in Belvidere, IL this afternoon, buying items at the Deli. I ordered macaroni salad, the girl weighted it and I asked her don’t you take off the weight of the container and she said No that she wasn’t told to. She has only been working there for 3 weeks and no one ever told her to do that. I took the salad and waited for another lady that was behind counter and asked her to re-weigh the container of salad. I told her that it’s government law that you are not to charge for the weigh of container. So she weighed an empty container to see how much it weighed and it was .35lb, she said it’s like .13 cents. I then hear a voice coming from the right side of me about 10 feet away, telling her not to do that again, but to just leave the new pricing on, I turned around and saw an elderly man and I told him it’s a government law and he said well it’s “my store”. I just quit my job this pass June,that I had for 11 years at Jewel in which I worked in the deli dept. I know that you are not to charge for the weight of a container. I called the Rockford better business bureau and ask the question, if she knew about it she said she didn’t know that it’s a law. She told me that Logili’s which is Schnucks now, charges for the weight container. I would really like to know if its a law or not, and if a store owner can charge a customer for the weight of item, Plus the weight of container.

  4. i got gas yesterday in Volo IL . The price on the sigh and the tank both read $3.19 I pressed the 87 octane button started to fill my truck and when finished it seemed very expensive (I keep my receipts) well I began to read it & it said Premium $3.69 on it !! So I went in to talk to the guy working there to tell him what happened he just smiled !! At this time he told me I got the premium gas & I told him I didn’t !! I drove a town over to get the $3.19 price and presses the button for the 87 octane!! He said no you didn’t , you got premium!! He wouldn’t listen to me only to keep repeating himself over & over !! P.S. His name on
    Name tag was “HAPPY ” No I’m not I feel like I got ripped off & its wrong to get away with this crime !! Phillips 66 Volo il on Rand road


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