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I always try to buy organic fruit and when I go to the food store I usually check out at the self- serve. This is why I have certain PLU codes memorized. But it wasn’t until a year ago that I realized the importance of the fruit labels. Now, I always check my fruit before I put it in my carriage and make sure the label has a 9 as the first digit.
The primary reason fruit labels were started was to help the cashiers identify fruit and speed up your check out. This is great for people who use self-service. The label will scan and look up what type of fruit you are buying and whether it is organic or conventional. But it is also helpful for you to know a few facts about the fruit labels because you will want to put the right fruit in your carriage and sometimes the fruit may be out of place. So…there is actually information on those little fruit labels that is very useful to you!
When you look at the fruit labels, there is either four or five numbers on them. This is the PLU (Price Look-Up) numbering scheme. They first made an appearance in 1990 and not only do they ease check-out, but help in inventory control and identification of bulk produce. Today, many countries from around the globe voluntarily cooperate in the international PLU system. The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) assigns the codes and publishes a PLU user guide.
PLU codes can tell you if the fruit is organic, conventionally grown, and can even identify certain aspects to the store such as the commodity, variety, growing methodology or size.
4 digit codes (usually start with 3 or 4):
- Conventionally grown produce (sprayed with pesticides, herbicides)
5 digit codes with a prefix of 9:
Organic crops meeting the NOP regulations are grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, or petroleum-based or sewage sludge-based fertilizers (National Organic Program ). They also must be grown and processed by organic farming methods that recycle resources & promote biodiversity.
But if it’s organic, does it mean it’s GMO free?
If the food has 100 percent organically produced ingredients and a label certifying it, then it is GMO –free.
5 digit codes with prefix of 8:
- Set up to identify genetically modified fruit, but read below …
There has been some controversy about whether you can tell if a fruit is GMO from the fruit label. Some say you can tell if it’s GMO if the fruit label has 5 digits and starts with an 8. The IFPS guide states the prefix of 8 would be placed in front of 4 digit codes for genetically modified produce. However, remember, the PLU system is purely voluntary and it is not regulated by a governmental agency. Do you think that any company would voluntarily put the 8 on their product knowing that most Americans would avoid it?
If you want to find out more about the PLU number on a fruit you buy you can go to the IFPS website. For some fruits you can even find out what part of the world they are from by typing in the PLU code.
My experience with fruit labels
When I go food shopping, I always check that the fruit I’m getting is organic by looking for the fruit label with a five digit code. At my local food store, the avocados are in a basket mixed with both organic and non-organic, so I always check the the fruit label to make sure I’m buying organic.
Do you find this to be true in your food store? Do you check the fruit labels?