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What the Stickers on Your Fruits and Vegetables Tell You

Originally from Cape Cod. Army Vet., Fmr. Director of Energy Conservation programs, RE Agent, current residence the Space Coast, FL


The stickers found on Fruits and Vegetables provide you a PLU number (code). PLU codes are 4 or 5 digit numbers that identify individual produce based the commodity, variety, growing methodology, whether or not it is conventionally or organically grown, etc. These numbers ​are assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) after they conduct rigorous reviews at both national and international levels.

The PLU coding system is voluntary, not mandated by any international or national governing body. There are currently over 1400 PLU codes issued for fresh produce and produce related items today.

Theses codes are given by the IFPS, a global organisation which assigns codes to fruit being sold all over the world. The codes have been used in supermarkets since 1990.

It doesn't matter where the produce was grown, a banana in London is going to have the same '4011' code as in Houston if it was conventionally grown.


There are three different codes, these sets of numbers identify if the fruit has been grown conventionally, organically or has been genetically-modified, as of now.

Some changes may soon be forthcoming, and to be sure you have the latest information on their coding you will want to check HERE to have the latest updates.

Conventionally grown produce will have four digit numbers on the stickers.

Organic fruit has a five digit code beginning with the number '9'

And GM fruit always has a five number code beginning with an '8'

Convention means that pesticides have been used, and basically that little or no consideration to the environment was given in its production.

GM or GMO means that the organism was genetically modified, or consumed produce that was genetically modified.

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The American College of Physicians reviewed over 200 related studies and determined that organic foods do not have higher vitamin or mineral content than the same foods grown using conventional methods.

If you see "USDA Organic","Certified Organic" or the PLU code designating it as organic, the item must have contents, ingredients, and processing ensuring that 95% or more be certified organic, meaning free of synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering.

The use of genetic engineering (GM, GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. An organic farmer should be prohibited from using GMO seeds, an organic cow should not be fed GMO corn, and an organic bread maker should not be using GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances.

However, violations of the USDA's organic labeling have minor penalties, a maximum fine of $11,000. The low penalties and the volume of organic products flooding the markets leave plenty of room for scepticism, and I would recommend taking efforts to verify the validity of the 'organic' nature of the product wherever and whenever possible.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Ken Burgess


Asad Dillz Khan from United Kingdom on November 08, 2019:

Short, meaningful and informative article. This is really a common thing which we all see in our life but don;t think about it. Thank you so much for this beautiful information.

Ken Burgess (author) from Florida on March 27, 2019:

Umesh thank you for the compliment.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 26, 2019:

Very informative article.

Ken Burgess (author) from Florida on February 25, 2019:

Thanks Pamela,

I hoped to put forth some good information on the topic, but rereading it just now I don't feel it flows well to the reader. Will need to revise it soon.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2019:

I think your information in this article is good to know for anybody that buys groceries. Thanks for this information.

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