The Truth About PLU Codes

PLU Codes have been in use since 1990. They were originally developed to be used by supermarkets for check-out and inventory control. They made it easier for the cashier to charge the correct for either organically or conventionally grown produce. Those little codes can tell you a lot about your food. From where it was grown, where it can be sold, how it was grown, even the size of the group.

PLU Codes are typically 4 digits falling between the 3000-4000 range. Sometimes you will find a 5 digit code. The last 4 digits are the PLU Code and the leading digit it a prefix that tells you how it was grown.

0 — Applies to all conventionally grown produce
8 — Applies to genetically modified produce (GMOs)
9 — Applies to organic produce

Typically the leading ‘0’ is not present. Most produce you pick up at the local grocery store will contain just 4 digits. Yellow Bananas for example will have a code of 4011. If the bananas were grown organically the sticker code would be 94011. To the best of our knowledge no producer has used the ‘8’ prefix on a produce sticker.

Conventionally grown produce means that it was grown with use of pesticides. This is how most produce is grown in the US currently. Genetically modified produce means just that. It was grown using GMO seeds. It may or may not have been grown organically. You will be unable to tell from the label. If it is designated ‘Organic’, by law it could not have been grown with a GMO seed.

PLU Handout

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