Decoding the PLU on Your Produce

The little stickers on your produce that contain a 4 or 5 digit number called a PLU (Price Look-Up) Code.  These numbers are a code used by the stores to distinguish between conventionally grown, organic and GMO produce. 

  • A four-digit number that begins with either a 3 or a 4 indicates that the item was grown using conventional methods.
  • A five-digit number that begins with a 9 indicates the food has been organically grown.
  • A five-digit number beginning with an 8 indicates the item has been genetically modified.

The secret has been revealed showing us how to spot genetically modified food--stay away from the eights.  Great, right?  Wrong.  PLU codes are not mandated, and producers are aware that many people are less than enthusiastic about consuming such items. Therefore, they omit the 8 on the code so that it appears as  the conventional four-digit number.

There are ways around this.  Genetically modified food cannot be labeled as organic.  Be sure to look for the organic label.  Also, there are certain things that are always best to be purchased organic because the GMO versions are so widely sold.  This includes corn, soybeans, canola, sugarbeets and papaya.  Lastly, some non-GMO crops proudly carry the "Non-GMO Project Verified" seals, indicating the product has gone the a vigorous process which authenticates it as being free from GMOs.