PLU Codes 101

November 28, 2011

Ever wonder what the different numbers mean on the produce labels? Well the numbers can help you shop faster – here’s what you need to know

What is a PLU?
PLU stands for Price Look-Up, a numbering system that has been used by supermarkets on produce items since 1990 for easier checkout, accurate inventory control and categorizing types of produce. 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. Used in Chile, Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and 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 The 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.

Choices: The following numbers are universal:
Beginning with 9: Organically grown (fruit, vegetable, etc.) Beginning with 8: Genetically engineered produce Beginning with 4: Conventionally grown fruit Beginning with 48 or 49: Fresh herbs Beginning with 31 or 49: Nuts

How to Use: The PLU code sticker identifies the produce for quick identification of organic or conventional when shopping. At home, discard sticker, and wash produce before eating or cooking it.

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