I recently discovered that those tiny stickers with numbers stuck on fresh produce sold in grocery stores actually mean something. There’s a whole coding system in place internationally. It’s called the PLU or Price Look-Up system. Here’s how it works. Each type of fruit and vegetable, nut and herb has a unique PLU identification code, which is the last four numbers on each sticker. Guavas, for example, are #4299, large lemons #4053, oregano #4897, brazilnuts #4926, broccoli #4060 and beefsteak tomatoes #3061.
Here’s where it gets really interesting, and useful. You can tell if a piece of produce has been genetically modified because the sticker attached will have a five-number PLU code that starts with the number “8.” The sticker on a genetically modified guava, for example, will be marked 84299. When you see a five number PLU code starting with the number “9” the produce has been grown organically and has not been genetically modified. A head of broccoli marked 94060 has been grown organically. You’ll know that pesticides have been used if you see a piece of produce marked with only 4 numbers.
Genetically Modified: 8 + five numbers
Organic: 9 + five numbers
Pesticides Used: only 4 numbers