Learn true meaning of Produce Sticker!

Those stickers you see on fruits and vegetables tell the tale of their life whether they are organic, conventional or GMO grown.

Printed on that sticker is a code that tells us where and how our fruits and vegetables actually are grown! You just have to know how to read the labels and the PLU number. It’s actually a lot easier than you’d imagine.

You know those stickers that can be found on most fruits and veggies in grocery stores worldwide are know as PLU’s (price lookup codes).

 produce, organic, gmo, non gmo, genetically modified organisms,
bannans have a PLU of 4011 (conventional), 94011 (organic) and 84011 (gmo)

I’m sure for those who work or used to work in a grocery store, those stickers are burned into our minds (I am one of those people). They usually have a bar code on them for scanning and a PLU code, which helps your friendly neighborhood cashier identify what type of produce you’re buying.

 PLU’s mean Organic, GMO or Conventional grown and identifies the item.

But these unassuming stickers are more telling than you’d think. While the PLU is the “price lookup” number and identifies the fruit or veggie, it also helps to identify something else: how the produce was grown. By correctly reading this code, you can tell if the fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides

 PLU basics for the consumer help with organic selection

Here’s the basics of what you need to know about the truth behind PLU codes.

  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 (or only four, in this case) of the PLU code are simply what kind of vegetable or fruit you’re buying. 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 have been tampered with in an unnatural way; essentially, produce that has been genetically modified was created in a lab or over decades of artificial selection, and cannot be found in nature. 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

Interestingly enough, the adhesive used to attach the stickers is considered food-grade, but the stickers themselves aren’t safe to consume.

If you’re looking to be hyper aware of what fruits and vegetables have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals and which have not, you’ll want to check out the homepage for the Environmental Working Groups. A consumer group has compiled two lists to help consumers identify which produce is generally cleaner and which produce is generally tampered with; the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen.

The Top 5 Clean Produce items are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (Frozen)

The Top 5 “Dirty produce items” are:

These items should always be organically purchased.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery

What do you think of this sticker revelation? Will this change how you shop for produce? Share your thoughts on this in the comments section below and sign up for our free Newsletter and in-store promotions.