What does the number on a fruit sticker mean?
The numbers on a fruit sticker tell a story about the fruit you are eating. Price Look-Up codes, commonly called PLU codes or numbers, are identification numbers attached to produce and other products in grocery stores and supermarkets to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. The PLUs also tell us as consumers what we are eating.
The codes have been in use since 1990. Currently, there are over 1300 universal PLU codes assigned. The code is a four or five-digit number, identifying the type of produce, usually including the variety.
Organic produce has a five-digit number, the first digit is 9, which means no chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides were used to treat the produce.
Genetically modified food has a five-digit number, the first digit is 8, which means man intervened by manipulating the genes to produce a more pleasing to look at fruit or larger fruit.
Conventionally grown produce has four digits usually beginning with 3 or 4, which means it was sprayed with weed killers and chemical pesticides.
Use of PLU codes eliminates the need for grocery store checkers to identify each variety of produce visually. This advantage is especially important with the growth of the organic produce market and the genetically modified market. Organic, conventional, or genetically modified apples, for example, may look the same but have very different prices, different quality, and most importantly affect your cells differently.
I’ll be looking for five-digit stickers beginning with 9. What about you?