Organic. Non-GMO. Locally grown. Farm fresh. We use a lot of adjectives to describe our produce, but it can all sound like a bunch of gibberish to the uninformed shopper. Our food, and how it's grown, is something that people get really passionate about - and for good reason.
For those of us who are wary of GMOs and produce that has been treated with chemical pesticides, there are tons of organic options available at just about every supermarket. How do you tell which fruits and veggies were grown which way? Sure, there are big signs that say "Organic," but some shoppers might want a little more certainty when it comes to choosing what they will serve their family. That's where PLU codes come in.
PLU stands for "Price Look Up," and cashiers use it to make sure they know exactly what type of produce you wish to purchase so they can charge you the correct price. In fact, you may have entered one of these yourself while using the self-checkout. While they're useful for determining price, PLU codes have a lot more to tell us about how our produce was grown.
Here's the scoop on what you need to know about interpreting PLU codes:
A PLU code that begins with a "0", or is four digits long, signifies produce that has been conventionally grown using common pesticides. If there are any letters at the end, they're usually just to indicate the type of produce. For example, 03001 or 4921.
A PLU code that begins with an "8" signifies that the produce has been genetically modified. Depending on where you stand with GMO's, this information might be a dealbreaker. GMO's are produce that was genetically altered in a lab in a way that wouldn't be found in nature. For example, 84220.
A PLU code that has five digits or begins with a "9" signifies organic produce that was not genetically modified. For example, 93857.
The stickers themselves are considered food-grade, but we don't advise consuming them.
If you're looking to become even more aware of which fruits and vegetables have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals, check out Environmental Working Groups for more information. They've compiled two lists to help consumers identify which produce is clean and which is "dirty."
The top five from their "Clean 15" are:
- Frozen Sweet Peas
- Sweet Corn
And the top five from their "Dirty Dozen" are:
For the full lists, go here.
So, will this knowledge change your shopping habits? Tell us in the comments section on Facebook, and check out the video below to learn more about food labeling.