PLU codes are those little stickers on your produce that have 4 or 5 numbers on them. It turns out those little stickers are handy (but not as much as some bloggers claim). They CAN tell you if your apple is organic or conventional (non-organic). They (in theory) can also tell you if that papaya is GMO or not (sort of…read on)
So here’s what PLU codes will and won’t tell you about your fruits and vegetables.
- Five digit number that starts with a 9 is Organic (94053)
- Four digit number that begins with a 3 or a 4 is conventionally grown (or GMO-see below) (4053)
- Five digit code that starts with an 8 is a GMO crop, BUT PLU codes aren’t mandatory so producers can label these as conventional. This means this GMO code is rarely used.
Wait, what?! Yep that’s right using the GMO indicating PLU sticker is totally optional!
According to the International Federation for Produce Standards (the organization that issues PLU codes)
“The PLU coding system is voluntary, not mandate by any governing body” (source)
To be honest I’m not surprised. Companies have been trying to skirt around telling consumers the truth for years. This is just another tool in the arsenal used to keep you in the dark about what you are eating.
So basically the PLU code will tell you if the produce is organic and that’s pretty much it.
If the produce is “conventional” it MIGHT be GMO…but it might not be. Who knows? Not you, and that’s the point (in my humble opinion).
This is another reason why I stick to organic or locally grown produce from a trusted source.
According to the Non-GMO Project the GMO crops are (as of December 2011):
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
You may have seen some blogs assuring you that if it doesn’t have a PLU code starting with an eight it is not GMO, (sadly) that isn’t true. In general I assume any food is suspect until I’ve verified it is non-GMO.
If you want to know more about healthy eating, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Clean Eating for a step-by-step plan.
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Hope that helps! Until next time healthy families!
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