The truth behind the PLU number on your produce.
When you pick up a bunch of banana’s you’ll see a little label on them that reads a 4 or 5-digit number. This is the PLU number and no, it wasn’t meant for you as a consumer. But since you know it’s there – I’ll let you know what it means for you as the consumer and how to use it to your advantage.
What are PLU Codes?
In the 1990’s the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) created Price Look Up (PLU) codes. The PLU codes assist supermarkets in easier checkout and inventory on bulk produce which also include bulk nuts and herbs. The PLU code lets the cashier know if the item is conventionally or organically grown. By using the PLU code, the cashier doesn’t need to know the name, variety or producer of the item. The code identifies the product either through the computer or a lookup sheet.
PLU codes are assigned in a random manner within a series. They are either a four or five-digit code. Four-digit numbers represent conventionally grown produce. The five-digit codes represent organically grown produce. Yes, organic produce is all non-GMO. The number 9 is added to the front of the four-digit PLU code. For instance, conventionally grown bananas have the PLU code 4011. Organically grown bananas PLU code is 94011.
These PLU codes are universal across the world for any country that uses the PLU code. Which means if you buy a bunch of organically grown bananas in Florida, Hawaii, or in Canada they will all have the PLU code 94011.
There is no PLU for GMO
As of this writing May 2018, the IFPS DOES NOT have a particular code for GMO. There were reports before 2015 that there would be a number identifier for GMO, but this is false. In 2015 the IFPS announced they were not going to use a specific 5-digit number to represent GMO bulk produce.
Are PLU codes required?
No, the PLU system is completely volunteer. It is up to the grower and the grocery stores. Many large grocery stores use the PLU system and encourage large producers to use them as well. Some produce such as loose carrots, or broccoli won’t have a PLU sticker on each item. You may see the PLU number on a band of carrots or on the sign with the name of the produce.
Warning about the PLU label
It isn’t biodegradable – so don’t eat the PLU sticker. And don’t leave the PLU sticker on anything you compost.
What does the PLU label mean to you as a consumer?
The PLU number is a quick way to make sure you are getting the produce you think you are picking. It decreases the chance of mixing up conventionally grown produce when you want organic. When you see the 4-digit code you know right away it isn’t organic. The five-digit code with the number 9 before the PLU tells you what you are choosing is organic. Meaning it isn’t sprayed with pesticides and it isn’t a GMO.
It is easier than you think to accidentally pick up a loose apple that is not organic. Many times, the organic and conventionally grown produce looks identical. All someone has to do is pick up an apple from one bin and put it in another. When you grab your loose apples you might accidentally pick up one that isn’t organic in the bin. By doing a quick PLU check you will find produce that was misplaced.
Quick wrap up
Remember the little stickers are not biodegradable so don’t eat them or put them in your compost bin. And there is no specific number or code for GMO products. Unless you buy organic you cannot be guaranteed that the produce is not GMO or grown with GMOs.
So, next time you’re at the grocery store picking up bulk produce, nuts and herbs look for the PLU number. By picking the 5-digit PLU you are buying organically grown produce.
The PLU code is just one more way to know you’re eating organic.
If you want more information about the PLU go to the IFPS website here. http://www.ifpsglobal.com/
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