Saturday, February 21, 2009

Price Lookup Codes Identify Organic and Genetically Engineered Produce

The International Federation for Produce Coding (IFPC) creates Price-Look Up (PLU) codes for fresh fruits and vegetables. These four-digit codes are put on stickers and applied to the produce items. Organic and genetically engineered produce are identified by a fifth PLU digit on the sticker. You can identify organic items by the number "9" leading the five-digit PLU, and you can identify genetically engineered items by the number "8" leading a five-digit PLU number. Both of these categories will have five digits instead of the standard four. The four-digit code remains the same even if a fifth digit (8 or 9) is added. In the following example, conventional bananas have a standard PLU code of 4011. Organic bananas are coded 94011 and genetically engineered bananas are coded 84011. For me, the 9 prefix (for organic produce) is desirable and the 8 (for genetically engineered) is not. I use this rhyme to remind myself of the difference: “I hate eight, but nine is fine.” For more information about PLU codes, visit


Anonymous said...

Is there a way to determine if a produce item has been irradiated by the plu code. I read on an unofficial website that a "3xxx" would indicate that it is was irradiated, but could not find anything formally defining this. Thanks!

Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA said...

No, sorry. At this time the 5-digit PLU code has a default first digit of zero, which is often left off the produce tag. The prefix, or first of five digits, is added only if the produce has been genetically engineered (8) or certified organic (9).

Conventional: 5 digit PLU code drops the initial digit if it is zero. An conventionally grown standard yellow banana would be '4011' (short for 04011).

Organic: Add a '9' in front of the four digit PLU code. An organically grown standard yellow banana would be '94011'.

Genetically Engineered (GMO): Add an '8' in front of the four digit PLU code. A genetically engineered standard yellow banana would be '84011'.

Chris MacDonald said...

The problem is that PLU codes are voluntary, and the "8" prefix for GMOs is not generally in use at all, as far as I can tell. Looking for that 8 will not result in good decisions.