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.
These short, four- or five-digit codes can be found on most produce at the grocery store. 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.
There are three main types of PLU codes: zeroes, eights, and nines.
A PLU code that begins with a zero, or is four digits long, signifies produce that has been conventionally grown using common pesticides. (Ex: 03001 or 4921)
A PLU code that begins with an eight signifies that the produce has been genetically modified. (Ex: 84220)
A PLU code that begins with a nine signifies organic produce. (Ex: 93857)
Currently, PLU codes are not required by law, which means they aren't always the most reliable way to tell whether or not your produce has been treated with pesticides or genetically modified. Additionally, suppliers have been known to avoid labelling their produce as genetically modified by omitting the "eight" from their PLU code, as long as the price is the same as the non-GMO produce.
If organic produce is something you want, keep an eye out for anything labeled "Organic." Or, to take it a step further, anything that the USDA has certified as "100% organic" is guaranteed to be free of any GMOs. If you'd like to learn more about PLU codes and the produce you're purchasing, check out this helpful video below:
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H/T: Sun Gazing