More and more people these days are spending additional time in the produce section when visiting their local grocery store. That’s good news, as vegetables and fruit contain vital nutrients that your body can’t get from other food sources. Choosing the right produce however, has got a little more complicated than it used to be. Many grocery stores today carry several varieties of produce, including conventional, organic and genetically modified versions. While this gives consumers a choice, it can be a little confusing if you don’t understand the PLU code identifiers. Price Look UP (PLU) codes have been used by grocery stores since the 1990s and help with inventory control and make “checking-out” much easier and faster.
Following is some information to help you identify and decipher those produce codes:
- Code that has four numbers and starts with a “4”—
If you select a fruit or vegetable that contains a 4 digit PLU code, the produce was conventionally (traditionally) grown. The specific number identifies the produce. For example, if you select a banana, the code will always be 4011. If you select an apple however, the code can vary depending upon the type of apple and the size. The code for a small Braeburn apple is 4101, whereas the code for a large Braeburn apple is 4103. This is true for other types of produce where there is a lot of variety.
- Code that has five numbers and starts with an “8”—
If you select a fruit or vegetable that has a five digit PLU code and starts with an 8, it is genetically modified. Fruits and vegetables that are genetically modified have altered DNA due to the process of genetic engineering, which alters traits. Some common fruits and vegetables that are genetically modified include: corn, zucchini, yellow squash and papaya.
Note: Keep in mind that not all distributors/growers of genetically modified produce mark their produce as such. Stores often carry produce that is unidentified, (No PLU sticker.)
- Code that has five numbers and starts with a “9”—
If you select a fruit or vegetable that has a five digit PLU code and starts with a 9, it is organically grown. Groceries stores typically have signs that indicate which produce is organic. If the organic product is displayed next to the conventional product, you can always double-check the code to make sure you are buying the organic version, if that is what you want.
Thanks for reading and happy buying!
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