Fruit Labels - PLU Codes

Have you noticed the little ?brand? stickers on your bananas, apples, peaches, pears, mangos, kiwi, and other seasonal fruits? Those stickers are helpful for the store clerk, as they don?t have to distinguish the difference between Fuji apples from Gala apples. That little helpful sticker has the price look up (PLU) code to speed up the check out process. But did you know that look up number also tells you more? Do you want to know what?

The number on that little sticker, not only is the price look number, it also tells how the product is grown or created. This has made news recently with the release of the new rules for ?organic? labeling.

For conventionally grown fruit, the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit have a five-numeral PLU beginning with the number 9. Genetically engineered fruit has a five-numeral PLU beginning with the number 8.

When I read about this labeling, I decided to scout my refrigerator for the little stickers. The bananas and apples both were four digits-meaning conventionally grown fruit.

So using this numbering system, a conventionally grown banana would be 4011, an organic banana would be 94011 and a genetically engineered banana would be 84011. Interesting isn?t it?

Who developed this numbering system? The numeric system was developed by the Produce Electronic Identification Board, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association, a trade group for the produce industry.

While the stickers are helpful to the cashiers to accurately identify and price produce, there are plenty of complaints about how well the stickers stick!

According to the Produce Marketing Association, some shippers have begun using stickers designed with tabs that make them easier to lift off, and are buying equipment that applies adhesive to the sticker but not to the tab.

Companies are also experimenting with different sticker materials, such as vinyl, that hold up under a variety of temperature and moisture conditions.

The adhesive now used to attach the stickers is food-grade, but the stickers themselves aren?t edible. To remove stubborn ones, soak in warm water for a minute or two. As a kid, we used to argue over who got the sticker off the bananas to wear as tattoos! They weren?t a problem?just not enough on a bunch.

So the next time you pick up that kiwi, melon, pineapple, apple or banana, check out the numbering system. Is it conventionally or organically grown? Or, is it a result of genetic engineering? It?s all in the number-which also is the price look up code for the cashier. A simple number for a complex situation.

PLU is the abbreviation of Price Look Up, i.e. the name of the mysterious numbers often printed on the fruit labels. It is shown like PLU-4211, #4211 or 4211 only. By reading the PLU code, you can tell if the fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides.

How to read a PLU code:

-For conventionally grown fruit, (grown with chemicals inputs), the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers.

- Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9.

- Genetically engineered (GM) fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8.


A conventionally grown banana would be:


An organic banana would be:


A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be:


Some history:

Between the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s (the date is a vexed question) appeared in the USA the PLU Code. It was useful for different sakes.

In a system that sale its products by the number and not only by the weight (like in Italy), it was important to know fruit and vegetable with the same size (calibre). Imagine a cashier of a supermarket in the USA who must watch all fruit to determinate the price. With the PLU code it was more easy. And then the stocks in hand. In an economy like the american, it was (and it is!) necessary to know the consistence of the stocks in hand and decide when to reorder them. In short, the PLU code is similar to the bar code.

That's the beginning. Then the PLU code is become different: it showed a precise kind or brand of fruit. To know that you are buying a banana with a brand is synonymous of quality product. That's, as explained us our President Imperi, when the labels was already born in the markets. The PLU code says us also the geographical origin of the product. In the USA there's a difference between the East and the West products: the demarcation may be the Mississippi river (?).

Other important difference: the PLU is assigned to the fresh fruit and vegetables only.

In 2000 the PMA (Produce Marketing Associations) and PEIB (Produce Electronic Identification Board) have called a meeting to adopt the PLU codes.

Now the PLU is used in USA, Canada, Africa del Sud, New Zealand, Australia, Cile and in Europe: Belgique, Greit Britain, Germany, Swedi, Norway and France.

In 2001 it has been created the IPFC, the international federation of codifcation of fruit and vegetables. The birth date is 26 october and the place is Philadelfia.

The PLU codes are updated periodically according to international agreements.

Now somebody says that there are 1200 codes assigned.

It seems that the PLU codes are destined to disappear in 5/10 years, as substituted by an other and more efficiency code: the RSS 14. A sort of mini bar code.




To top

Copyright © 2009 - KOCH Engineering