Like the price codes that you see on products you buy or the tags you find on your bread, you will also see some numerical codes on the fruit and vegetable labels.

But unfortunately, most consumers disregard these sticky little labels and simply buy what’s on their shopping list. These stickers with numbers are actually very informative and every smart buyer should know.

The Price Look Up or PLU Label

The label you see on the fruits and vegetables that you buy at your local stores are known as price look up or PLU labels. They are used by consumers to learn whether the produce is treated with pesticides or not. They are also useful in determining if the fruits and veggies are genetically modified.

Those stickers are not there for decorative purposes
Those stickers are not there for decorative purposes

Before deciphering the codes, you may want to know what the actual labels are. The stickers may be mysterious with their numerical codes, but most of us rip them off of the produce. You may be wondering what you should do with the stickers after buying the fruits or vegetables. The answer to this will depend on the manufacturer of the PLU stickers. They can be made of paper, vinyl, or plastic.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) though, the adhesive found on the sticker labels are actually food grade additive. While they are not really edible, but they can still be digested by the body, which means that they will pass through the digestive tract if you accidentally eat them. Nevertheless, you should not expect that they will give you some nutrients as some people may tell you. Additionally, when you dispose of the stickers, make sure you don’t throw them with the peels from fruits and vegetables as they will contaminate them and the stickers themselves don’t break down.

With those out of the way, it’s time to get back to what these stickers really mean. Here’s how you can decipher the codes easily:

  1. Four Digits: If the codes have three to four digits, they indicate that they are conventionally-grown produce. They have been treated with pesticides, which means you should wash them thoroughly.
  2. Five Digits: If the sticker has five digits and the first number is 8, this means that the produce has been modified genetically. Meanwhile, if the first number is 9, this means that it is an organic food. Some produce should always be organic to safeguard your health.

Typically, organic produce are more expensive than genetically modified organisms (GMOs). You can look up the PLU label online, but make sure that you don’t include the first number if it’s a five-digit code.