What Do The PLU Codes On Fruits And Veggies Mean?

What are PLU codes?

Let’s discuss PLU codes. The stickers found on fruits and vegetables at markets contain 4-5 digit numbers known as Price Look-Up (PLU) codes. These codes have been around since 1990 and are used by stores to identify bulk produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs). They help to distinguish between conventionally-grown, genetically-modified (GMO) and organic products. This system is administered by the International Federation for Produce Standards, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association. There are currently over 1400 PLU codes issued.

PLU codes make the check-out and inventory control processes easier and more accurate by eliminating the need for the cashiers to identify the product on their own. It takes the guesswork out of whether or not each item is conventionally or organically grown and ensures that consumers pay the accurate price.

Be a stickler and know what you are consuming. Here is what you need to know about those pesky PLU code stickers on fruits, veggies, nuts and herbs.

Below is a guide that will teach you the significance behind the labels found on the produce you are buying.

What do the codes mean?

  • 4-digit PLU code starting with 3 or 4 (3xxx or 4xxx) = conventionally-grown
  • 5-digit PLU code starting with 9 (9xxxx) = organically-grown
  • 5-digit PLU code  starting with 8 (8xxxx) = genetically-modified

Some examples include

  • 4129 = conventionally-grown Fuji apple
  • 94129 = organically-grown Fuji apple
  • 83111 = genetically-modified papaya (hypothetical)

Example of PLU codes on fruit

Produce And PLU Codes Bamboo Core Fitness
In this photo, the Granny Smith Apple (94139), Fuji Apple (94131) and D’Anjou Pear (94416) have PLU codes that begin with the prefix ‘9’, identifying them as organically-grown. The Navel Orange (4012) has a PLU that begins with the number ‘4’, identifying it as conventionally-grown.

The 5-digit PLU code starting with an 8

The 5-digit PLU code starting with an 8 was created to help retailers distinguish between a GMO and a non-GMO produce for price or inventory purposes. It is rare to see a fruit or vegetable with this PLU code because most individuals are familiar with the dangers behind GMO food products. Food manufacturers recognize the global awareness of GMOs and understand that many people would not buy a fruit or vegetable that is labeled as a genetically modified organism, so they often choose to forgo the labeling of such products.

Update on the 5-digit PLU code starting with an 8

Since this article was written, the prefix ‘8’ has now been added to the PLU code database, but this time, not for GMO products. Here is an excerpt taken directly from the IFPS website which explains the new changes:

PLU Code Transition – Leading Digit ‘8’ by cdallacco:

“As the adoption of price look-up (PLU) codes gain further traction in the produce industry, the IFPS has committed to transitioning the previously unused prefix ‘8’ to accommodate an increase in varieties of fresh produce items as they enter the market. Please refer to the press release (English, Spanish and French) for further information. Additional information can also be found in this article which is an extract from the October 2015 Fresh Magazine issue published by PMA.”

In the announcement, the IFPS repots that although the ‘8’ prefix (83000–84999) was once reserved for GMO produce items, the prefix was never used in retail. Taking away the prefix of the GMO designation will provide 1,000 additional PLU numbers to be used in the future. The IFPS does not anticipate issuing PLUs in the newly released ‘8’ prefix series for some time.

PLU-Codes-Bamboo-Core-Fitness

Resources

If you have questions about PLU codes, here are some resources that will provide you with answers.

1. Search PLU codes online

2. Email the IFPS

  • For further information or questions regarding PLU codes, please email plu@ifpsglobal.com.

What do you think?

So there you have it: the nitty-gritty behind those sticky, annoying labels found on many fruits and vegetables!

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Do you pay any attention to the stickers found on your produce? Why or why not?
  • Will my graphic help you navigate the produce aisles in your grocery store?

Please share

If you have enjoyed this post, and/or found it to be useful, I’d be grateful if you would help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it via social media. Thank you!

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Comments

  1. Janet Gibson

    This is by far the easiest to remember, because the graphic colorful and has a visceral impact. I’ve looked all over, and so many just write it out, blah, blah, blah, more information till my head explodes. I can carry this with me, and in a day won’t need to anymore. I’ve also printed it for the Produce Manager of our local family-owned store. Thanks, Jen!

    1. Hi Janet,
      THANK YOU for your wonderful feedback. I am so happy that my graphic, “What do the PLU codes on fruits and veggies mean?”,has proven to be useful for you! This is why I write these articles… so when I hear that others find my articles/content helpful, it is rewarding! I also love that you passed it. Thank you very much! What is the name and location of the store you shared this with? I’d love to know where the good vibes are spreading. Thanks! – Jen ||| PS: I am always looking for topics to write about… please let me know if there is anything else that you’d love to see in an article or graphic and I will do what I can to make it a reality! Cheers!

  2. Iiz

    What if a PLU starts with 7, can someone tell me what it’s all about?

  3. Maria Castellano

    My Frd just sent me this.. I’m very happy see did.. I am against GMO’s.. I just ate a necterine and looked at the code and it was 3035… At least it not GMO..
    I’m going to post this on FB it will help my frds much.. They are against GMO’S too..
    They are trying to kill us with the GMO’s
    Thanks again..

    1. Hi Maria – you’re welcome! Thanks for reading my article and sharing this knowledge with others; I appreciate it! Knowledge is power! 🙂

  4. If there are only four numbers in the PLU, this means that the produce was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of pesticides.

  5. Steven

    what does it mean if the fruit has four digits but starts with the number 5 or 6? thanks

    1. Hi Steven. I just looked this up for you. With regards to fruit that starts with the number ‘6’, this is what’s stated on the International Federation for Produce website:

      “Why would a PLU code start with the number ‘6’ or something other than a ‘9’?

      The only prefix recognized by the global system is ‘9’ which represents organically grown produce. PLU codes starting with the prefix ‘6’ are not part of the internationally standardized list of PLU codes for use with fresh produce, so PMA is unable to provide much clarity on where the number originated and what it represents. Perhaps it is part of a proprietary coding system outside the scope of the international list. PMA suggests you contact the produce manager at your local store as he/she may have access to that information.”

      Hope this helps. 🙂

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