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Something About A Sticker & A Number

Imagine yourself walking through a beautiful produce section of a local grocery store. Vibrant vegetable colors and sweet scents of ripening fruit tempt you to buy one of everything. You pick up a bunch of bright yellow bananas and notice a sticker that has been placed on the fruit. Now imagine that sticker to read “This banana may contain herbicides and pesticides.” Would you still buy it?

What if the sticker said, “The DNA in this product has been modified to resist pests by producing it’s own insecticide.” Would you buy that one?

You may or may not already know, but the little stickers on bulk produce are already giving you these warnings. You just need to know how to read them.

Beginning in 1990, The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) created a defined list of PLU (Price Look Up) numbering codes for bulk produce. They were instituted not only for inventory purposes, but to also help cashiers quickly look up correct prices for certain produce. Before the codes, it may have been difficult to know the difference between conventionally grown apples and organic apples, which probably cost a bit more. Since then, there are now over 1300 PLU’s available for use.

How do we know what the numbers mean? Well, there are basically three rules that you’ll want to remember to help you make the best decisions on your purchases.

1.) If there are FOUR numbers on the sticker, it means the item was conventionally grown (grown for mass production typically with the use of herbicides and pesticides)

2.) If there are FIVE numbers on the sticker and the number starts with an “8” it means the item has been genetically modified. Put it down and move your cart as far away as possible. That’s my advice anyway.

3.) If there are FIVE numbers on the sticker and the number starts with a “9” it means the item has been organically grown.

Please note that the use of PLU codes are an option for companies. Not all produce, particularly genetically modified varieties, will have a code. Hopefully, someday soon, the US will make mandatory the labeling of GMO’s. It would just make things so much easier, wouldn’t it? Until then, I’ll just have to keep going around with my Mr. Yuk stickers and labeling everything myself. Just kidding.

Sort of. (maybe if I could still find those stickers…)

9 Responses to Something About A Sticker & A Number
  1. Heather
    September 14, 2012 | 9:38 AM

    The one that gets me more, is how would you react if your fruit had a warning “may contain shellfish” on the sticker? The more I learn about GMO, pesticides, preservatives, etc, the more I hate our culture and the need to make everything the best and longest lasting.

    • Toni
      September 14, 2012 | 10:59 AM

      Oh my…I haven’t run into that one yet! Which is rather scary since I am allergic to seafood! I’m with ya…it’s the stuff that keeps me up at night :( I have to remember that change starts with me and my family…and we can only make a difference from there. :)

  2. Emily
    September 14, 2012 | 2:40 PM

    So helpful. It’s all about informing the consumer

    • Toni
      September 14, 2012 | 6:57 PM

      Agreed! I actually never knew about these numbers until recently. Glad to share!

  3. Michelle
    September 14, 2012 | 3:50 PM

    Yes – the tomatoes are GMO with shellfish to give them a better color. There’s a LOT of concern over how those with shellfish allergies will react. What a nightmare, no?

    I’ve known some about the PLUs, but I wasn’t yet aware of the 9 for the GMO. DEFINITELY keeping that knowledge in my back pocket. I was mandatory labels. And I want it clear. Better yet, I want GMO gone.

    • Toni
      September 14, 2012 | 6:59 PM

      I had no idea about the shellfish and tomatoes…that is disgusting! So glad to be able to grow heirlooms in the summer and can them for winter. Whew!

      Oops…don’t get confused…9 is for organic, 8 is for GMO. :) I always remember it as “8 is for hate, 9 is just fine.”

  4. Colleen
    September 14, 2012 | 3:52 PM

    Good to know! I am with the group of people who think GMO labelling should be required!

    • Toni
      September 14, 2012 | 7:00 PM

      Yay!! I hope the rest of the population sees it’s importance as well!

  5. a
    August 14, 2013 | 9:00 AM

    I usually do not leave a response, however after reading a
    few of the comments on Something About A Sticker & A Number | Food.
    (Just Sayin’). I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Is it just me or do a few
    of these remarks come across like they are written by brain dead
    people? :-P And, if you are posting on additional places, I would like to follow you.
    Would you list of the complete urls of all your social community pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

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