Have you ever been perusing the aisles of produce at your local grocery store and thought, “what do the numbers on these stickers really mean”? These are Price Look Up codes (PLU’s) and they were created to help make checkout easier. Having this code prevents the cashier from having to know or look up the exact brand, variety and quality of each produce item. These are typicallv four or five digit numbers, but the first number is what to pay attention to.

 Understanding PLU Numbers on Produce

‘4’ is the most common number you see; it denotes conventionally grown foods where chemical insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers were used. ‘3’ is starting to appear more, but it also means conventionally grown food because they are running out of number combinations with 4.

‘8’ is a number that is not seen too much anymore, but was first introduced in the early 1990’s when Genetically Modified Foods were coming on the market. The GMO companies thought that consumers would want to purchase their GMO foods so they adopted the 8 label. To their dismay they quickly found out that people were not too excited about consuming GMO foods at all, so they dropped the 8, and actually began lobbying to pass laws making the labeling of GMO foods illegal. So keep in mind that just because you do not see the 8 very often anymore, does not mean the ‘3’ or ‘4’ -labeled food you are buying is not GMO – it just means they are not being specifically marked as such.

‘9’ however, means the food you are holding is certified organically grown, so no pesticides or chemical fertilizers were used. Additionally there are no genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) allowed, and the foods are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.