PLU 101

October 15, 2012

Ever wondered what PLU codes on products mean? Here's the SupermarketGuru guide to PLUs

What is a PLU? 
PLU stands for Price Look-Up, a numbering system used by supermarkets on produce items since 1990 for easier checkout, and accurate inventory control. All stores use the same codes.

Who Administers PLU? 
The International Federation of Produce Standards, as a service to growers, shippers, and food retailers to improve the supply chain efficiency of shipping fresh produce with international standards. PLU codes are used in Chile, Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and in the US.

How to Buy: 
Most sealed or packaged produce does not require PLU codes. Produce, sold by weight or by the unit in an unprocessed form, does require a PLU code.
Produce is defined as fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, herbs, flavorings, and nuts. The small PLU sticker will be on each item, on containers of bulk/loose produce or on the cord that holds bunched produce.

How to Read Labels:
Labels have 4-5 numbers, and there are hundreds. The first number reveals the general category, the others the variety and origin, e.g. Apples/ Fiji/ Washington.

The following numbers are universal:

Beginning with 9: signifies organically grown
Beginning with 8: signifies genetically modified produce
Beginning with 4: signifies fruit
Beginning with 48 or 49: signifies fresh herbs
Beginning with 31 or 49: signifies nuts

How to Use:
The PLU code sticker identifies the produce; discard sticker, wash produce as usual before eating or cooking.

Smarter Shopping:
Put your kids in charge of the produce and have them select a new fruit or vegetable each week and tell the family about it. 

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