The Flaming Vegan

A Vegan and Vegetarian Blogging Extravaganza

What's That Number On Your Produce?
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What's That Number On Your Produce?

When we buy vegetables and fruit in the store, we are at the mercy of those who grew them. How do we know where the plants were grown, how they were grown or whether they were genetically engineered?

Fortunately, there is an easy way to find out. Take the rubber band or sticker off the vegetable or fruit and look at the number printed on it. For example, right now I have a rubber band from a bunch of broccoli I bought at the local grocery store. The band says, "PLU #4060 Product of USA." That tells me where my broccoli came from, but does the number mean anything? Yes, it does! I can go to and find out that my broccoli was conventionally grown (i.e. not organic) and even learn its botanical name. The PLU code tells us where and how produce was grown, whether conventionally, organically, or with genetic engineering.

Conventionally grown produce has a four-digit PLU code. Organic produce has a five-digit code beginning with 9. Had my broccoli been organic, the PLU number would have been #94060. 

The original purpose of the codes was to make checkout easier for clerks who may not know the difference between a Granny Smith apple and a Golden Delicious, but those little stickers and rubber bands help all of us to know a little more about the food we're putting into our bodies.

More about PLU, code, produce, broccoli, organic, apple
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  1. VegMom
    Thanks for this post. I knew about the 9 for organic but was unaware that an 8 indicates genetically engineered. Very helpful!
    1. Cynthia Bombach Helzel
      VegMom, Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found the info useful.
  2. The Hungry Hungry Herbivore
    This is fantastic!! Thank you so much for posting!
    1. Cynthia Bombach Helzel
      You're welcome -- I'm so glad you appreciated the post. The PLU numbers are something everyone should know about, but they aren't publicized as much as they could be. It's important for people to know what they are eating!
  3. taniab
    Wow! That's very interesting info! Thanks for sharing.
    1. Cynthia Bombach Helzel
      You're welcome. Glad you found it useful!
  4. Nutribuff
    Here's how I remember what the code numbers mean - 4... Like 4 corners of a conventional house, 4=CONVENTIONAL 9... The highest possible number that can be given to produce, the best choice of all 9=ORGANIC 8... In numerology 8 is a "make money" prosperity number. Who is trying to just make money off of you and doesn't care about your health? 8=GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM
    1. Cynthia Bombach Helzel
      Very clever - thanks for sharing!
  5. DaisyFrye
    Thank you for posting the plu code info and for the website. I was also unaware of the gmo 8. Good to know!
    1. Cynthia Bombach Helzel
      You're welcome!
  6. LawrenceAurand
    Vegetables are good for health. In, I have read an article about benefits of eating vegetables. It is better to eat organic vegetables.


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