Here’s What The Numbers On Grocery Store Produce Mean

Most people don’t give a second thought to the stickers placed on grocery store produce, but these numbers can actually tell you valuable information about the item you’re buying.

The PLU Code, also known as the “price lookup number,” identifies the fruit or vegetables and is used for making checking out easier. And while this is all fine and dandy, the PLU number also helps to identify something else. It can let you know if your produce was genetically modified, organically grown, or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides or herbicides. This is some pretty valuable information that we have been overlooking!

So how can you decipher a PLU code? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Organic Produce

Produce that has been organically grown has five numbers in the PLU code, and the code begins with a 9.

Flickr via Rusty Clark

2. Conventional or “Traditional” Produce

Conventional produce, meaning that which may have been grown in the presence of pesticides, uses four numbers in the PLU code, and the code begins with a 4.

Flickr via Kurt B.

3. Genetically Modified Produce

GMO produce has five numbers in the PLU code, and it begins with 8. However, since this labeling is not mandatory, many companies steer clear of using this particular PLU code in attempts not to scare off customers. If you’re worried about consuming a GMO product, your only guarantee is buying something that reads “certified organic.”

Flickr via Claire Henry

Take advantage of these codes to help you figure out how your fruits and vegetables were raised to make the choice that’s right for you. Check out these additional shopping tips to help you navigate next visit to the grocery store. This way, you’ll be armed with the latest on BPA-free cans, the “dirty dozen” list and more.

And don’t forget to keep a lookout for the PLU code on your next shopping trip, too.

Photo by Rusty Clark – On the Air M-F 8am-noon