Food Fact Friday: Produce codes

Ever wonder what those stickers on your produce mean? Maybe they’re an indication of where your fruit or veggie came from? Or perhaps how they were grown?


The number on these stickers is called PLU (Price Look-Up) code. (credit: Consumer Reports)

  • A five-digit number that starts with a 9 means the item is organic.
  • A four-digit code beginning with a 3 or a 4 means the produce is probably conventionally grown. For example, regular small lemons sold in the U.S. are labeled 4033, large are 4053; small organic lemons are coded 94033, large are 94053.
  • A five-digit code that starts with an 8 means the item is genetically modified (it has genes from other organisms). You won’t see many of those because only genetically modified versions of cornsoybeans, canola, cotton, papaya, and squash are now widely sold. And because PLU codes aren’t mandatory, companies can label those items as conventional. The problem is that although an estimated 60 to 70 percent of food items sold, including packaged goods, have genetically modified ingredients, little is known about the long-term effects of consuming them, and concerns have been raised about an increase in allergies and other health issues. For more info, visit the Non-GMO Shopping Guide website.

Next time you pick up a veggie and wonder why it’s so abnormally big, maybe turn it over to look at the sticker. For more information regarding the regulation of PLU codes visit Canadian Products Marketing Association.


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