What Do the Number Stickers on Fruit Mean?
On the fruit you purchase from the grocery store, you’re likely to notice a small sticker. On this sticker, you can likely find the brand of the fruit, where it was grown, and then a small unique number. While this number might seem meaningless to you, it can actually tell you a lot about the fruit you’re buying.
4 Digit Number
The codes found on fruit stickers are known as PLU codes (Price Lookup Codes). These codes are either found in 4 digits or 5 digits. If your fruit has a 4-digit code, then it was grown conventionally. This means it is grown using pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. It also means there was no genetic mutation involved. These chemicals are used to promote the growth of the plant and reduce pests. This is one of the most common methods of growing produce.
While the use of chemicals on your food might sound concerning, studies have not reported a significant health or nutritional difference between conventionally grown food and organic food. Conventionally grown food is often easier to produce and it is produced in higher quantities.
5 Digit Number Starting with 9
If the code on your fruit is a 5-digit number, there are two potential options for how your food was grown. If the 5-digit code begins with a 9, it means your produce was grown organically. Unlike conventionally grown produce, organic produce is grown without using pesticides and other chemicals. Organic foods have much higher standards to be met in order to be labeled as organic. They cannot contain any pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, or any other man-made chemicals. Organic foods need to be grown using natural pesticides and fertilizers.
Many people struggle with the decision between purchasing organic over conventional produce since organic produce is usually sold for a higher price. One option is to focus on the kind of fruit you’re purchasing. For thin-skinned fruit, such as apples, you can purchase organic so you reduce the risk of being exposed to pesticides and other chemicals. However, you can purchase conventionally grown fruit when purchasing thick-skinned produce like bananas.
5 Digit Number Starting with 8
The other option for a 5-digit code is numbers beginning with an 8. This means the fruit has been genetically modified. Genetically modified foods were created in order to make it easier for farmers to grow their crops. When food is genetically modified, the DNA is altered using technology. Modification can make crops resistant to pests and diseases. This reduces crop loss. Genetically modified crops also don’t need heavy use of pesticides and other chemicals. One of the most common genetically modified fruits is the papaya. In Hawaii, the Rainbow Papaya is grown and this variety is resistant to the ringspot virus. Growing this variety means more papayas are produced and fewer are lost to viruses.
When you know what the codes on your fruit stickers mean, you can make conscious choices about the fruit you are buying. You can know how your food was grown and if that’s the right choice for you. Next time you shop, take a look at the stickers.
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