PLU codes: this is what the stickers on fruit and vegetables mean

You have probably already seen them: the small stickers on apples, bananas and other fruits and vegetables, containing a four or five-digit number. But do you know what these so-called PLU codes mean?

What are PLU codes?
PLU means ‘price-look-up’. Initially, these codes are meant for cashiers, who enter this number in their cash register, and therefore registers the correct price. Each fruit strain has its own code. The IFPS, the International Federation for Produce Standards, is responsible for making the PLU codes.

What do PLU codes mean?
The rumour that customers could see from the PLU code whether a product had been genetically modified, circulated for a long time. A five-digit number starting with 8 would have been the clue that this was the case. While it is true that codes starting with 8 once indicated that this was a genetically modified product, this is no longer the case. By now, organically cultivated fruits and vegetables can also be marked with a PLU code starting with 8. Some fruit and vegetables strains have PLU codes starting with 83 or 84, but they have been organically cultivated.

Foods on which the PLU code starts with the number 9, have definitely been organically cultivated. Four-digit codes starting with 3 or 4, however, should indicate that the fruit or vegetable has been cultivated by including the use of pesticides and artificial fertiliser. 

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