What Do the Stickers on Your Fruit and Vegetables Mean?

by Patrick Morency

Those stickers on your produce are more than little nuisances to be peeled off and occasionally bit into by accident.The numbers on the stickers are called PLU numbers, and they contain very important information regarding how your fruit and vegetables are grown.

PLU stands for “price look-up” number. The PLU system is an internationally recognized standard for all produce sold commercially around the world.  The system was put in place in 1990 to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster and more accurate for supermarkets.

PLU numbers are equally as important to you, the consumer!

Here is a breakdown of what you should be looking for regarding PLU numbers on those pesky stickers slapped on your apples, mangos and cauliflower:

If you see a 4-digit code starting with 3 or a 4, it means that the produce was grown conventionally. A 5-digit code starting with a 9 signifies that the produce is organic. If the code on the sticker has 5 digits and starts with an 8, than this particular crop has been genetically modified.

If you buy produce with a “3” or “4”, be sure to wash the food thoroughly before cooking or eating.  The skin or peel could be saturated with poisons, so I would advise against using the skin or peel in any recipe.

Here is an easy way to remember the meaning behind PLU codes:

“8” I hate (It’s a GMO!) but “9” is fine (It’s organic!)


That’s the PLU code uncoded.


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