As much as I dislike them, the stickers and labels attached to fruit speed up the scanning process at checkout, and most importantly, they tell me a little history about what I’m buying.
Cashiers no longer need to distinguish a Fuji apple from a Gala apple, a prickly pear from a horned melon, or a grapefruit from an Ugli fruit.
They simply key in the PLU code – the price lookup number printed on the sticker – and the market’s computerized cash register identifies the fruit by its PLU.
The numbers also enable retailers to track how well individual varieties of fruits and vegetables are selling.
- For conventionally grown fruit, 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 fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8.
So, a conventionally grown banana would be 4011, an organic banana would be 94011, and a genetically engineered banana would be 84011.
The numeric system was developed by the Produce Electronic Identification Board, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association, a Newark, Delaware based trade group for the produce industry. At the start of this decade, the board had assigned more than 1,200 PLUs for individual produce items.
Fruit companies hear plenty of complaints from consumers about hard-to-remove stickers. Retailers gripe that stickers fall off or become marred during transport.
In response, 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.
The good news about these pesky stickers is that consumers have a chance to tell if the fruit is genetically engineered or not.
Go into your kitchen and read your stickers. Is that fruit really organic or genetically engineered?
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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.
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