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What do PLU codes say about your produce?

Consumer Reports News: May 07, 2010 11:52 AM

You know those little stickers on fruits and veggies? They’re called price look-up (PLU) codes and they contain numbers that cashiers use to ring you up. But you can also use them to make sure you’re getting what you paid for. Here’s what to look for:

A five-digit number that starts with a 9 means the item is organic.

A four-digit code beginning with a 3 or a 4 means the produce is probably conventionally grown. For example, regular small lemons sold in the U.S. are labeled 4033, large are 4053; small organic lemons are coded 94033, large are 94053.

A five-digit code that starts with an 8 means the item is genetically modified (it has genes from other organisms). You won’t see many of those because only genetically modified versions of corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, papaya, and squash are now widely sold. And because PLU codes aren’t mandatory, companies can label those items as conventional. The problem is that although an estimated 60 to 70 percent of food items sold, including packaged goods, have genetically modified ingredients, little is known about the long-term effects of consuming them, and concerns have been raised about an increase in allergies and other health issues. For more info, visit the Non-GMO Shopping Guide website.

This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of ShopSmart magazine . For more health and shopping advice, pick up a copy on newsstands now.
   

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