The Veggie Code

The Veggie Code

The PLU code is commonly seen on fruits and vegetables. If you buy a particular item often and go through the grocery self check out, you may even have the produce PLU code memorized. But what is a PLU code exactly? Can it tell you information that you have been seeking for making better health decisions? The answer is a resounding “yes”, as the produce PLU code is a hotbed of information. Reading the code in the correct way can have an impact on your level of understanding of the actual foods that go into your body.

The PLU in PLU code stands for Price Look-Up, and the code is affixed to fruits, vegetables and other products for the purpose of inventory and pricing control. The codes have been in use since the 1990s to make the check out process easier at grocery stores. This is important since there can be a range of prices for the same fruit, depending on if it has been grown organically or not. The system also helps with inventory control and ensuring there are accurate amounts counted in the grocery store. There are over 1300 PLU codes in use today. These codes were originally meant for the use of the grocer, however by you understanding their meaning you can know if a fruit or vegetable is conventionally grown, organic or genetically modified.

Produce PLU Codes for Conventionally Grown Produce

Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are coded with a four digit PLU code. They begin with either a 3 or a 4. A conventionally grown fruit or vegetable may have been treated with pesticides and chemicals to preserve its freshness. Chemicals are also used to treat weeds that are in the soil, and to reduce pests and disease from overtaking the produce crops. According to the world renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, there is no conclusive evidence that conventional produce is any less nutritious than organic produce, however minimizing your body’s exposure to chemicals is always best.

Produce PLU Codes for Organically Grown Produce

Organic produce will have five digits and will begin with a 9. Organic produce has been grown without the use of pesticides, fungicides and related chemicals. The farming practices are designed to reduce pollution and include organic methods like composting. Proponents of organic produce say that this fact alone should make consumers flock to the produce, but another benefit is that it has a better taste and nutritional value. Because there is a higher cost to growing organic produce, often the price is higher for the fruits and vegetables than their conventional counterparts. The best example of the organic PLU code is a banana, which has a produce PLU code of 4011. If a banana has been organically grown, it will have a PLU code of 94011.


Produce PLU Codes for Genetically Modified Produce

If a code has five digits and begins with an 8, it is genetically modified (GM) food. These foods are commonly called GM foods or genetically modified organisms (GMO). There is a lot of controversy over the use of GMOs, as they take genetic segments of various organisms and place it into one plant. In more simplistic terms, a soybean can have DNA from a pig, watermelon and cat that are inserted through genetic engineering techniques. Proponents of genetic modification tout higher amounts of desirable characteristics such as immunity from crop diseases and longer shelf life. Critics of GMOs refer to these foods as “Frankenstein Food” and warn consumers on the safety of the foods. While GMOs are more prevalent in the United States, consumers in Europe and Asia have demanded the elimination of these foods in their grocery markets. Again we will use the example of the banana, which has a produce PLU code of 4011. If a banana has been genetically modified, it will have a code of 84011.

Who Created the PLU Code System

The organization behind the produce PLU codes is the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS). The IFPS is a newly formed organization consisting of fruit and vegetable associations from all across the globe. According to the website, the long term objective of the federation is to improve the supply chain efficiency of the fruit and vegetable industry by developing and implementing international standards.

So now you are armed with the information to select your fruits and vegetables wisely, and to make wise decisions in the produce section. Get It In!!!

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