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Companion resource for: “Want to Find Out Where Your Fruit Was Grown? Good Luck.” by Elizabeth Grossman

Translating the PLU Code 

Four-digit PLU code = Variety and Size

“9” preceding four-digit code = Organic

“8” preceding four-digit code = GMO ( “8” is rarely used, if at all, by vendors.)

PLU code facts

  • PLU stands for “price look-up.”
  • The PLU number identifies produce items based upon various attributes which can include the commodity, the variety, the growing methodology (e.g. organic) and the size group.
  • The 4-digit PLU codes are assigned randomly within a series of numbers within the 3000 and 4000 series.
  • Over 1,400 global PLU codes assigned to produce and related items.
  • It costs $1,000 per [PLU code] application.
  • PLU code restrictions
    • The product must be available to the entire global produce industry and available from multiple growers.
    • Codes will not be assigned for a product that is controlled by one grower or by multiple growers that are controlled by a single entity.
    • The only prefix recognized by the global system is ‘9’ which represents organically grown produce.
  • For those items restricted to be grown in a certain regions of North America, ‘East’ refers to items grown east of the Mississippi River in the United States or east of the Ontario/Manitoba border in Canada. ‘Central’ is considered to be Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. West would be considered California.

Source: International Federation for Production Standards 

What the PLU Code Doesn’t Tell You

The PLU code was not designed to provide transparency for the consumer. According to the International Federation for Produce Standards the top benefits for retailers who use PLU codes are to: improve scan data and pricing integrity; enhance sales and profitability and reduce labor costs because clerks no longer need to label items in the store. The PLU code was not designed to tell consumers specifically where their produce was  grown. While certain codes can signify certain regions they do not identify farms.

Online PLU Code Search

You can search specific PLU codes at this website -> Click Here 

Mango PLU Codes

mango_plu_codes_pdf__1_page_

Source: http://www.mango.org/retail/mango-plu-codes

In Search of “8”

While researching background information for this page, we learned that the number “8” is rarely used by vendors. You’ll recall, if placed in front of the primary four-digit code “8” signifies the produce is genetically modified.  In fact, we have  yet to confirm a number “8” sighting.   If you’ve seen the elusive number “8” used to identify a GMO product we’d love to hear about it.  Tweet a picture to our Twitter handle @FERNnews with the hashtag #InSearchof8 or share it on our Facebook page and we will send you a signed copy of our Editor-in-Chief’s, Sam Fromartz, latest book, In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey