What can you tell from those numbers on fruit and vegetable stickers? The price look-up (PLU) code system used by most produce distributors has the side benefit of allowing consumers to identify conventional and organic produce at the grocery store.
We have all seen cashiers at supermarkets type in the codes from those pesky stickers found on fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, and sometimes nuts; Perhaps you have even typed the codes in yourself when using the manual checkouts some grocery stores now offer. But have you ever stopped to consider if you should be reading those codes while shopping?
Using Price Look-up Codes (PLUs), the Nutshell:
- PLU codes are four digit numbers that identify different types of produce. For example, #4011 is the code for a standard yellow banana.
- The number 3 or 4 indicates conventionally grown produce (grown with pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers)
- The number 9 prefix added to a PLU signifies that an item is organic. For example, #94011 is the code for an organic yellow banana.
- A number 8 prefix added to a PLU signifies that an item is genetically engineered (GE). For example, #84011 is the code for a genetically engineered yellow banana.
- PLU codes and their organic prefixes are in wide use but GE codes are rare at best.
The next time you pick up a piece of produce: (1) look at the first digit of the PLU label, (2) remember these numbers, (3) know what you’re buying and then (4) rest assured that they’ll tell you everything you want to know about the food you’re buying for (and serving to) your family.
What I am wondering, is, are these PLU labels safe???? It’s obvious there is some type of glue that attaches them to the fruit, etc.. Even though we tend to all wash our fruits, I still want to know about this glue on the back of the PLU’s!!! I cut out the skin area that the sticker was adhered to.
There is always a catch
Unfortunately, the PLU labelling system is voluntary in Canada and currently there are no Canadian federal regulations specific to PLU stickers or what constitutes a PLU sticker. Rest assured however, that although the use of the sticker may be optional, when a sticker is displayed the information on the sticker must be accurate and truthful.
Until mandatory food label is a reality, there are clues that will give you hints about the type of produce you are purchasing. So next time before you throw that fruit or vegetable in the cart, peak at the label to be sure you are buying exactly what you are paying for.
This whole GMO labeling debate has grown out of retailers avoiding any type of label indicating GMOs. Look for something specifically labeled “organic” – you won’t have to worry about them hiding the fact an item is organic in some numbered code.
GMO labeling may be as easy as reading the PLU bar code. Many products may already be labeled, if you know where to look!