Lots of information included on how to read produce stickers on organic and conventional produce.
In grocery stores, produce that is sold in bulk has a Price Look Up Code (PLU). The PLU code is determined by the International Federation for Produce Standards www.plucodes.com. The produce can have either a 4 or 5 digit code printed on a sticker that is applied directly to the produce. The PLU stickers are used to make checkout easier and more efficient for the grocery store cashier. Once you know a few basics about PLU codes they are a breeze to read and you can double check the produce you choose to make sure that it is what you really want.
PLU Numbers on Produce Stickers:
- Organic produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 9.
- Conventional produce has a 4 digit PLU number that begins with the number 4.
- Genetically modified (GMO) produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 8.
PLU Number Examples:
Granny Smith Apples
Genetically Engineered – Modified (GMO) Labeling:
Initially in 1992 when the bio tech companies thought that we would all wanted to eat their altered food they wanted to have a new “code” so that we could all see which food was the altered and would buy it up- ya right! So they adopted the number 8 to appear in front of their products. Quickly the industry learned that not only do we NOT want the GMO foods we will purposely not purchase foods that have been altered they no longer use the number “8” as part of the code. The only GMO product that still used the “8” code is Hawaiian papaya.
The only foods that you can be sure are not GMO foods are labeled “Certified Organic”. Organic producers must follow strict rules to be able to label their products as organic. Interesting or disturbingly enough the companies producing the GMO (chemically altered foods) do not have labeling restrictions- Crazy! Anything else is fair game unfortunately- pay special attention to products that have corn, cotton seed or soy they may have GMO origins.
Other information included on the PLU stickers:
Depending on where the produce originates the PLU produce sticker may also contain the produce variety, grower, country of origin, and logo. The California Tree Fruit Agreement uses PLU stickers as part of their branding effort by adding a logo to all stone fruits (peaches, plums and nectarines) so consumers can recognize California fruits.
Examples of three different organic apple PLU stickers:
Cervantes Fuji Viva Terra Organic #94129 www.vivatierra.com
Produce of USA #94017 Organic Granny Smith Lg.
Stemilt Certified Organic #94133 Gala Produce of USA www.stemilt.com
Article and photos source: Allison Ray from Organic Food Coupons
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