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  • PLU Codes – Know What You Are Buying

    PLU Codes – Know What You Are Buying

    How do you know what you are buying in the produce department? If you are looking for organic produce, how can you find it in the maze of the produce department? Here’s how. Look at the PLU code.
    Imagine this scenario: Let’s say you read an article about how peppers get sprayed with super-toxic chemicals so you want to buy organic. You are looking for organic red peppers but you can’t find them. You don’t see a sign for them but you do see a designated area for red peppers.

    Many supermarket produce departments are not signed well. Trying to figure out where things are and what they cost can be challenging enough at times.


    The PLU Code

    The ‘Price Look Up’ code was originally developed as an aid to supermarket cashiers. This numerical system tells the cashier if you are purchasing a banana or a plantain. It also acts as an inventory system for the store.
    The PLU code can also help us as shoppers if we know what to look for. In this blog post, I’ve put together a guide to the Price Lookup Code, or PLU Code. This guide will help you navigate the murky waters of your produce department.

    Conventionally Grown Fruits and Vegetables:

    ‘Conventional’ or ‘conventionally’ grown produce, is produce that is not organic. There is no legal protection from GMOs as there is with organic produce. USDA regulations state that genetic engineering may no be used in organic produce. So if you want to avoid GMOs, the easiest way is to buy organic produce.
    Conventionally grown produce will have a PLU Code that is 4-digits long. The price look up code in this case will begin with the numbers 3 or 4, such as 4658 or 3658. So when you are shopping and you are looking for organics, as I do, this PLU code will give the ‘heads up’ to look further.


    Organic Fruits and Vegetables

    The USDA has regulations for the growing practices of organic fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is the safest bet for standard of purity. That is to say that USDA regulation prohibits the use of GMOs in organic produce. USDA regulation states:

    ‘Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.’

    Especially if you are an ‘organics only’ shopper, it’s important to know the PLU code. Organic produce, will have a PLU Code that is 5-digits long beginning with the number 9, such as 94567.

    GMO PLU Code:

    There was a time that those in the field of PLU codes thought that retailers would want to identify GMO produce. It seems unbelievable now considering the well-documented media about whether or not to have GMOs labeled. There have been so many arguments on this issue! I guess supermarkets were quick to learn that most Americans may not want to buy GMO produce. There is no code for GMO produce, which is not surprising considering the on-going labeling arguments. What is surprising is that we, as ‘the American public’ have no legal right to know what is genetically modified through our labeling system.
    The only foods that you can be sure are not GMO foods have organic labels and/or PLU codes. Organic producers must follow strict rules to be able to label their products as organic. The process to become certified is rigorous and not inexpensive for farmers. Disturbing as it is, companies producing GMO produce do not have labeling restrictions, nor can they be identified through PLU codes. They also have periodic checks for safety of the workers on the farms, safety of the soil, etc…..

    Helpful Resource

    There are a couple of great resource for us, as consumers, who do not want to ingest GMOs.

    Check out: www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com

    There, you can look though lists of GMO and non-GMO foods.

    Quick Takeaways

    •Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have a PLU code that is 4-digits long. The codes will begin with the number 3 or 4 in most cases.
    •Organic fruits and vegetables have PLU code that is 5-digits long. Organic PLU codes begin with the number 9.
    •There is no PLU code for GMO produce.

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    Comments (1)

    • Thank you, Nina – this is very helpful!


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