PLU (price look up) numbers are placed on produce to make pricing and check out easier and more convenient at grocery stores. These codes can actually help consumers determine where food comes from.
The International Federation for Produce Standards maintains the five-digit codes that identify where the product is grown, size and type and how it was grown. Qualifiers are as follows:
- 0: Applies to all non-qualified (conventionally grown) produce and is generally presented without the leading “zero” digit
- 8: Genetically modified
- 9: Organic
PLU numbers can be helpful if the product actually does contain a PLU code. However, all produce is not required to have a code present.
Sometimes a supplier will simply leave the code off if they know consumers do not want to purchase genetically modified food, for example. If you are searching for organic produce, look for items specifically labeled as “Organic.” As of now, PLU codes are mainly used for convenience of the grocer and are not a public standard.
Lauren Henke, registered dietitian
Centegra Health System