Sticker Codes on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

— Written By Eleanor Summers and last updated by

Do you often find a small sticker attached to fresh produce at the grocery store and wonder just what the numbers mean? Price Look-Up codes (PLUs) are printed on these small stickers.

PLU codes are 4 or 5 digit numbers that have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make checkout and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. PLUs are primarily assigned to identify individual bulk fresh produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs). PLU codes ensure that the accurate price is paid by consumers by removing the need for cashiers to identify the product, whether or not it is conventionally or organically grown, etc.

PLU codes tell you key pieces of information about the produce, such as how it was grown.

  • A four-digit number, such as 4011 for bananas, can identify conventionally grown food.
  • Organic food is identified by a five-digit number that begins with a nine, such as 94011 for bananas.
  • Genetically modified food is indicated by a five-digit number that begins with an eight, such as 84805 for a vine ripe tomato.

The PLU coding system is voluntary, not mandated by any governing body.
PLU codes are created by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), an international body and can be searched online at plucodes.com. This site provides free Web access for all Price-Look Up (PLU) codes for fresh fruits and vegetables sold in random-weight/bulk in produce departments. There are currently over 1400 PLU codes issued for produce and produce related items.

If the sticker also has the USDA organic seal, then you know it’s been certified by the government through the National Organic Program. To be certified, products must be inspected and meet the USDA regulations.

Source: USA.gov Blog – United States Government Blog

Written By

Photo of Eleanor SummersEleanor SummersExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (828) 439-4460 eleanor_summers@ncsu.eduBurke County, North Carolina
Posted on Aug 16, 2012
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