Ever noticed those little stickers on the fruits and veggies sold at your local grocery? Well, they actually have a bigger function than allow you to pay for the item on the counter.
They’re actually called PLU (or “Price Look Up”) codes and, yes, their main purpose is to make it easier for cashiers to determine the items you’re purchasing and how much they costs.
The casual buyer may not give it much attention but if you look closely enough, you will notice that each of these stickers actually have 4 or 5-digit codes. These codes can tell you a lot about how the produce was grown.
We dug deeper about this subject and found further information from the website of Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City:
1. If a PLU code has only 4 numbers, the produce was grown conventionally.
Dr. Lipman said:
“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 a PLU code has 5 numbers and begins with an 8, the fruit or vegetable has been genetically modified.
According to Dr. Limpan:
“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 a PLU code has 5 numbers and begins with a 9, the produce was grown organically.
“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”
Dr. Lipman also added that, yes, the adhesives used in these stickers are considered food-grade and, no, the stickers themselves are not edible.
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