When you buy produce at the grocery store, you might have noticed that the fruit and vegetables have a barcode sticker somewhere on them or their packaging. Most of the time people don’t notice they are there until they are washing their produce (you do wash your produce, right?). What you might not realize, however, is that those codes on the stickers actually mean something and are really useful if you are trying to be conscious of where and how your food is grown.
Produce can be separated into three categories: organic, conventional, and genetically modified (GMO). The codes are called “PLU” codes, which stands for “price look up”, and are universal. That means the PLU sticker code you see on a naval orange (#4012) sold in Portland, OR is the same code you would see on a naval orange sold in Dallas, TX. The codes are administered by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS). The IFPS maintains a list of these codes, which identifies the type of produce, its size, where it was grown, and how it was grown.
Organic produce has a 5 digit PLU code that begins with the number 9.
Conventional produce has a 4 digit PLU code that begins with the number 4.
GMO produce has a 5 digit PLU code that begins with the number 8.
Another important tidbit is that the labeling system is completely voluntary. This means that GMO produce will not necessarily have the 8 prefix on their sticker. Companies have avoided the labeling as they think consumer backlash will affect sales. You can look up any category of fruit, vegetable, or nut on the site plucodes.com, which enables you to search by code or category. If you want to avoid GMO produce, the only sure way is to buy “certified organic”. The Non-GMO Shopping Guide is a downloadable guide and iPhone app that can help you make informed shopping decisions.
Our customized menus include the freshest local produce. Call us to discuss any questions you might have about our recipes and how we buy our ingredients.