Chicken by the Kilo Has British Squawking

NORAH BAGNALL went to the market to buy some ripe red tomatoes and saw a price that looked as if it had doubled. It wasn't twice what it should be, but rather 2.2 times the old price, as the Sainsbury grocery switched to kilograms from the British imperial system of using pounds and ounces. ''I'm British, and I don't like this European stuff,'' Mrs. Bagnall scoffed.

Under orders from European Union officials in Brussels, Britain is adopting the metric system - starting with packaged foods as of Oct. 1.

As stores change their weights ahead of the deadline, store aisles are filled with confused people. Many big grocery stores provide conversion cards and charts to ease the transition. But this hasn't stopped shoppers from squawking.

''They've got those kilowatts or whatever - I don't understand,'' says Dorothy Jones, on her way into the Waitrose supermarket in West Hampstead. ''It's too much,'' agreed her shopping companion, Florence Fairclough. ''They should leave us alone.''

Like it or not, Britain is undergoing the process of ''metrication,'' and any merchant who fails to adapt can be fined 1,000 or about $1,500.

Some people are happy to see the changes. Ann Friedlaender, who grew up in Germany using the metric system, says it's about time England caught up: ''It's much easier to calculate to 100,'' she says.

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