Now that self checkouts are becoming more common I find myself more knowledgeable about the produce that I buy. At first I thought it was a pain to manually punch in the PLU code but now I like it because it tells me something about what I am buying. The no barcode button is actually a blessing in disguise.
What is a PLU code and why does it matter?
PLU codes are used in retail locations to facilitate the checkout process. PLUs identify bulk and random or variable weight fruits and vegetables (and related items such as nuts and herbs). PLU numbers are printed on a small label that is attached directly to individual fruits and vegetables. The codes are either 4 or 5 digits and there are only three important things to remember.
1. 4 digit PLU code – an indication that produce is conventionally grown (potentially sprayed with synthetic pesticides).
2. 5 digit PLU code starting with the number 9 – an indication that produce is organically grown.
3. 5 digit PLU code starting with the number 8 – an indication that produce is genetically modified (and potentially sprayed with synthetic pesticides). But are there any PLUs that start with 8?
There is conflicting information. According to the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) there can be a number 8. Here is what they say ”How is genetically engineered produce coded on a PLU label? The number 8 is added in front of the regular four digit PLU code. (e.g. a genetically engineered vine ripe tomato would be 84805)
I went to a local grocery store and checked out the produce and didn’t find an 8. Come to think of t, I don’t think I have ever seen an 8 so I started to wonder why.
The labelling system is voluntary and not many manufacturers of GM products are willing to label them. Looking for the 8 in the PLU is not always a sure fire way to figure out of it is GMO or not. I believe the 8 was set aside for when retailers want to distinguish between a GMO and a non GMO for price and or inventory purposes. After all, that’s the purpose of the PLU code in the first place. Unfortunately for us most manufacturers of GM foods aren’t lining up to broadcast that.
It’s important to remember that the absence of an 8 in your PLU digit does not mean that it is NOT genetically modified. The safest option is to choose the PLU codes that start with a 9. In this case the number 9 happens to be the magic number because it signifies organic and that means far less pesticides. Especially for apples, because testing showed that 98 percent of conventional apples had pesticides.
Here is an example of the labelling of an organic and conventionally grown apple.
Who knew checking your digits could have such a positive impact on your health?
Some information taken from: