PLU codes

What do those PLU number codes mean on produce in the USA?

Did you know there is a fast and easy way to know how our produce was grown?

It is called a PLU (Price Look Up) code.

It tells us if the produce was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides.

PLU Codes are displayed on a sticker with a 4- or 5-digit code on it.

The truth is PLU codes were never created for the benefit of “consumers.”

But savvy shoppers can use PLU codes to confirm how produce was created.

Here is how to crack the PLU coding system…

A five-digit PLU code starting with the number “3” is nuked.

Yep, it was irradiated (i.e. electronically pasteurized).

A PLU code starting with the number “4” tells us the produce was grown conventionally.

Yes, this includes the use of pesticides.

For example, the PLU code of 4131 is a traditionally-grown apple.

A PLU code beginning with a “6” identifies pre-cut fruits and vegetables.

A PLU code starting with the number “8” is genetically modified.

(By the way, I have never seen a PLU sticker with the number “8”.)

A five-digit PLU code starting with the number “9” is organic.

PLU codes infographic

One mnemonic device to help us remember organic from genetically modified organisms is 8 you hate and 9 is fine.

By the way: we should always throw away the PLU stickers…

While their adhesive is food grade, they are not edible.

And some say they do not mix well with septic systems.

Now here is the rub with PLU codes… they are not mandatory.

It is up to a grower to label their own produce.

And with the outrage about genetically modified foods, there is pressure to flat out lie.

The Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) offers a web site to search PLU codes. It reveals the exact type of produce – even the variety.

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Markus Allen

Family man. Truth seeker. Life hacker... more about me here...


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