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Cracking the Numbers on Product Lookup Codes

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Have you ever wondered why retailers put those pesky numbered stickers—also known as product lookup codes (PLU)—on fresh fruits and vegetables?

According to the International Federation for Produce Standards, “PLU codes have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster and more accurate. PLU codes are used to identify bulk produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs). They tell the supermarket cashier whether an apple is a conventionally grown Fuji apple, which may sell for $1.29 per pound, versus an organically grown Fuji apple, which may sell for $2.29 per pound.” More than 1,400 universal PLU codes have been assigned to fresh produce.

These four- and five-digit codes indicate what the item is, its type, its size, where it was grown and how it was grown. Being able to recognize a few key PLU codes can be helpful as you decide which fruits and veggies to purchase. Plug in codes on produce you want to learn more about with this lookup tool: http://plucodes.com/search_wizard.aspx?s=1.

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster is the editor in chief of IDEA’s award-winning publications. She is Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified and is a Rouxbe Certified Plant-Based Professional cook.

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