PLU Codes - A Key to Identifying Healthy Food
Did you know that there is something called PLU codes that can help you determine if your produce is a genetically modified food?
If you care about your body and eating healthy food, you are probably someone who wants to avoid genetically modified foods - those foods that have had their genes altered in some way to make them easier to grow or to be more insect and disease resistant.
A sturdier plant may sound good at first, but there is growing concern that modifying the genetic structure of a plant or an animal can cause problems down the road that we cannot even predict yet.
The possible health issues arising from the proliferation of gm food is a cause of much concern for many of us.
The problem is that, at the moment, there are no internationally-agreed upon requirements for the labelling of GM foods. World governments are therefore applying their own regulations. Most are onside, especially in Europe, but both the US and Canada are resisting.
Until recently I have to admit that I felt quite helpless in my ability to ensure that my produce has not been genetically modified.
Then I heard of produce PLU codes.
In the supermarket you have probably noticed that there is a sticker on most of the bulk produce. That sticker has a number on it called a price lookup code (PLU for short).
When that sticker is scanned or the number on it is punched into the checkout register, that number tells the computer what kind of produce you have. For example, it registers that you are purchasing organic broccoli rather than regular broccoli, or royal gala apples rather than delicious apples. In some instances the PLU also indicates size.
Produce PLU codes can be found on fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, dried fruits and flavorings. It is used on any produce that is sold loose, bunched (carrots), by weight (potatoes and green beans for example) or by unit (a bundle of chard).
On produce that is too small to easily accommodate a sticker, such as green or wax beans, the PLU code may be placed on the signage on or around the bin the produce is in.
Most sealed packaged versions of these products contain a bar code sticker and will not carry the price lookup code.
Produce that has had additional processing, like stuffed vegetables, juices, or portioned products are exempt from this labelling, but when you are buying bulk fresh fruits and vegetables, this label is a valuable piece of shopping information.
PLU codes are 4 or 5 digit numbers that appear on the sticker attached to the produce.
It is the first digit that is important for our needs in determining whether we believe this is a healthy food or not.
The first digit can be one of three numbers - 0, 8 or 9.
A 0 is the first number of a traditionally grown product. The code number is generally shown without the preceding 0, so any 4 digit code you see is a traditionally grown piece of produce.
A 5 digit number that begins with the number 9 indicates that the produce in question has been grown organically. For example, the code for a regular banana would be 4011. The code for an organically grown banana is 94011.
If you want organic, always make sure the sticker on your produce is a 5 digit code beginning with a 9.
A 5 digit number that begins with the number 8 has been genetically modified.
A traditional tomato would have the 4 digit code 4805 (the zero at the beginning of the code being "silent" or missing). A genetically modified tomato would be coded with a sticker that reads 84805, the number 8 being the indicator that that food has been genetically modified.
To use the same fruit as an example for all:
A conventionally grown tomato would carry a sticker with the number 4805 (or 04805 if it shows the 0, which it usually will not).
An organically grown tomato will carry the number 94805 on its sticker.
A genetically modified tomato will bear the number 84805.
If you want to avoid genetically modified food, do not purchase produce with a sticker bearing a 5 digit code beginning with 8.
I believe that our health and wellness rests largely in our own hands. Understanding how these price look up codes work is a useful way of ensuring you buy the healthy food you are looking for.
Consciously leaving the genetically modified produce on the store shelves will also eventually send a message to producers that we don't want to consume this type of product.
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