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A Friendly Guide to Decoding the Numbers on Fruits

A Friendly Guide to Decoding the Numbers on Fruits

May 25th 2023

Fruits are delicious and an essential part of a balanced diet, providing a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. As you wander through the aisles of your local supermarket, you may have noticed small stickers on fruits with a series of numbers. These numbers, known as PLU (Price Look-Up) codes, hold the key to understanding more about the fruits you will enjoy. Let us dive into the meaning behind these numbers and how they impact fruit production and consumption.

PLU codes serve a dual purpose: They help retailers streamline their checkout process and manage inventory while providing valuable information about the fruit's origin, cultivation methods, and variety to you, the consumer. By understanding these numbers, you can make informed choices about the products you consume.

The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) assigns PLU codes and identifies three primary categories based on the Produce's growth method: conventional, organic, and genetically modified. The remaining digits in the PLU code denote the specific fruit variety and size.

  1. Conventional Produce (4-digit PLU codes)

Four-digit PLU codes are the most common and represent conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. These items are produced using standard agricultural practices, which may include synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. For instance, you can identify a conventionally grown banana with the PLU code 4011.

  2. Organic Produce (5-digit PLU codes starting with 9)

When you see a PLU code that starts with the number 9 followed by four additional digits, you will know that the fruit has been organically grown. Organic farming practices focus on reducing synthetic chemicals and promoting sustainable agriculture. Techniques used include crop rotation, biological pest control, and organic fertilizers. An organically grown banana, for example, has the PLU code 94011.

   3.Genetically Modified Produce (5-digit PLU codes starting with 8)

Fruits displaying PLU codes that begin with the number 8 and have four additional digits are genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These fruits undergo genetic engineering to exhibit specific traits, such as pest resistance or improved shelf life. GMOs are often debated, with some highlighting increased crop yields and reduced pesticide use, while others express concerns about health and environmental risks. A genetically modified banana would have the PLU code 84011.

  4.Variety and Size Codes (remaining digits)

The remaining digits in the PLU code help you identify the specific fruit variety and size. The IFPS ensures that PLU codes remain consistent globally. This information is beneficial for those who have preferences for certain fruit varieties or sizes.

In conclusion, PLU codes are crucial in the fruit production industry, making life easier for retailers and providing valuable information to consumers like you. Understanding the meaning behind these numbers enables you to make informed choices about the fruits you enjoy. So, the next time you find yourself in the produce aisle, look at those little stickers and use this newfound knowledge to guide your selections. Happy fruit shopping!