PLU Codes on Produce: What Do They Mean?

PLU code
Not organic

We've deciphered meat labels -- what about produce labels? You've probably seen those tiny little stickers on your oranges and bananas -- the ones with the mysterious code numbers. Those of you who have worked at a grocery store know that's the Price Look-Up (PLU) code, which helps businesses manage pricing and inventory.

For the most part, these are just code numbers used to identify different kinds of produce. But there are a couple of key numbers you might want to look out for.


PLU code beginning with 8 -- Food growers are supposed to voluntarily label foods from genetically modified organisms (GM) by adding a number 8 to the front of their PLU codes. Keep in mind, since this labeling is not required by law, not all GM food is necessarily labeled as such. Even more confusing, some large retailers like Costco use their own PLU coding system. When in doubt, ask the store manager.

PLU code beginning with 9 -- Organic produce is labeled with a number 9 added to the front of the PLU code.

raduraAll food that has been irradiated (exposed to radiation in order to kill any bacteria) must include this symbol on the PLU sticker. The producer can print it as tiny as they want to, which can make the symbol hard to spot sometimes.

Do you care if your food is irradiated or GM?


Image via Adriana Velez

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