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What do those PLU stickers on my fruit mean?

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PLU labels, or “Product Look Up” labels can be pesky things to remove, especially on soft skinned fruits like plums. But they do contain information you can use as you decide how to spend your hard-earned cash. And to decide what you’d like to ingest, or avoid.

Since 1990, most fruit and some vegetables, herbs, nuts, and seeds have had these coded stickers. One reason for this is to make it easier for checkout clerks to determine which of the dozen or so varieties of apple, etc., you are purchasing, therefore tracking inventory more effectively.

But look closely. There are three different types of numerical sequences:

  • 4 digit codes: these represent non organic foods, grown conventionally, in nutrient-depleted soils, sprayed with chemical (petroleum based) fertilizers.
  • 5 digit, starting with 8: This label indicates a GMO, or Genetically Modified, food. That’s a big deal, since it means that animal DNA or bacterial DNA has been spliced into the genetic structure of the plant in order to make it a teeny bit more cold tolerant, thereby marginally extending its shelf life. What it can do to human “shelf life” is a huge experiment being run on the unwitting American public. (GMO foods are not allowed in Europe). Nothing like this occurs in nature.
  • 5 digit, starts with 9: Here we have non GMO foods, raised to meet criteria set by the National Organics Standard Board.

We’ll talk more about the concerns surrounding GMO foods in future articles. For more information on pesticides and their effect on human life, bee activity, and other living creatures on our planet, see .