Have you ever wondered what the numbers on those produce stickers mean? The four or five-digit numbers can actually tell you a lot about the produce you buy.
Although they seem like a nuisance, the stickers or labels attached to fruit and some vegetables have more of a function than helping scan the price at the checkout stand. The PLU code, or price look up number printed on the sticker, also tells you how the fruit was grown. By reading the PLU code, you can tell if the fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides.
Want to know if those Gala apples are organic, the potatoes conventionally grown, or the corn genetically modified? When you shop for produce, it’s important to keep in mind that some fruits and vegetables have more pesticide residue than others.
Here are the basics of what you should know:
1. If there are only four numbers in the PLU, this means that the produce was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of pesticides. The last four letters of the PLU code are simply what kind of vegetable or fruit. An example is that all bananas are labeled with the code of 4011.
2. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “8″, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables trump being organic. So, it is impossible to eat organic produce that are grown from genetically modified seeds. A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011
3. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “9″, this tells you that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified. An organic banana would be: 94011
Produce that is labeled as organic cannot include any intentionally added genetically modified ingredients. An organic farmer is not prevented from calling sweet corn organic even if pollen from genetically modified corn plants blew in from other fields.
Certified organic produce is labeled in words reading “certified organic,” and you can also tell by the price.