Saturday, December 5, 2009

The secret behind the PLU digits on your fruit and vegetables

Ever wonder why fruit and vegetables often have stickers on them listing a 4 or 5 digit number? These stickers identify the fruit and vegetables you are about to eat as organic, conventional or genetically modified. Next time you pick up a piece of fruit and vegetable, take notice of what the number starts with and how many digits are on the sticker. Most stores do not advertise that they are selling genetically modified produce, therefore it is up to you to pay attention to the labels!
Here's how it works:

For conventionally grown fruit, (grown with chemicals inputs), the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9. Genetically engineered (GM) fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8. For example,

A conventionally grown banana would be:
An organic banana would be:
A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be:

The numeric system was developed by the Produce Electronic Identification Board, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association, a Newark, Delaware-based trade group for the produce industry. As of October 2001, the board had assigned more than 1,200 PLUs for individual produce items.
Incidentally, the adhesive used to attach the stickers is considered food-grade, but the stickers themselves aren't edible.

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