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Know the Codes

July 6, 2010

I am always impressed by grocery store cashiers who memorize all those produce PLU codes.  PLU codes were designed by the Produce Marketing Association to benefit grocery cashiers, who no longer have to remember the price of every item sold. Did you know all those PLU (product look-up) codes on produce tell a secret?  They can tell the informed consumer whether the fruit or vegetable is organic, conventional, or genetically modified.

PLU codes that begin while the numbers 3 or 4 and aer four digits long are conventionally grown. Organically grown produce bears the same four digits plus the number 9 a at the beginning, for a total of five digits. Genetically modified produce bear the five-digit PLU codes beginning with the number 8. Huh?

For example, conventional bananas would be PLU code 4011, organic 94011, genetically modified would be 84011.

It can’t be this simple, right? Nope. You can’t depend on GMO produce to be labeled with the correct PLU prefix.  The only foods you can be confident aren’t GMO are labeled “Certified Organic”. 

 The companies producing the GMO’s do not have labeling restrictions – Crazy! President Obama has stated that he supports mandatory labeling of GMO foods.  To sign the petition to President Obama visit

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