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What Those Numbers on Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Stickers Actually Mean

You may have noticed those numbers stamped on your produce stickers and wondered what they mean. We have too. So, we’ve done some digging to get to the bottom of what the length and order of these codes represent. Read on to find out how these digits could affect the quality of your fruit and veggies.  

That 4 or 5-digit code is actually known as a Price Look-up code (PLU), and serves an important function for retailers to categorise their inventory and quickly establish the cost of each product. Plus, the stickers are fully edible – though we can’t make any guarantees on the taste. 

But shoppers also stand to benefit from understanding these digits. There are a number of elements on these stickers which indicate the origin, size and status of a piece of fruit or a vegetable. We’ve unpacked these factors below to help you make the best choice when it comes to produce.

The first number on a PLU sticker represents farming techniques.  

A small change in digits can be the difference between organically grown produce and those grown in chemicals. Codes starting in 9 indicate the product is certified organic, and these will be followed by a four-digit number in the 3000 or 4000 range. But future plans from the International Federation for Global Produce Standards show 8 will be another digit indicating organic produce, when followed by digits between 4000 and 4999. Though this prefix was originally dedicated to GMO crops, it remained unused and, as such, is set to be transferred.

Conventionally farmed fruits and veggies will feature a prefix of 3 or 4 – this means they’ve likely been exposed to pesticides. Look out for these prefixes to be sure organic labels are properly applied. Many shoppers are concerned with pesticide consumption –studies have shown organic produce may also be affected by pesticides due to proximity to conventional crops, but the research found organic to have 5x less contaminants. But, if you opt for conventional produce, you can easily reduce chemical residue. Here’s how:according to a study, a simple bi-carb soda wash can remove a variety of pesticide residue in just a 15-minute soak. 

Number of digits specify methods of fruit and vegetable production.  

A 5-digit number is evidence of organic produce, while 4 digits indicate conventionally-grown fruit and veggies – meaning pesticides are used. A 5-digit number starting with 8 would technically indicate GMO produce, but as we found earlier, it tends not to be in use in retail – and, of course – Australia has a GMO ban preventing the farming of such crops. 


Identifying different fruit and vegetable varieties.

With hundreds of variations among produce, fromRed DelicioustoGranny Smithapples, PLU stickers provide an effective method of separating the categories within each type of fruit and vegetable. You’ll find each variety has its own special code – russet potatoes are listed as 4072, while sweet potatoes come under 4816 and are then further divided by colour and size. Dozens of apple varieties are also categorised into their own PLU code, withPink Ladyapples listed as 4128, and again, further categorised by size. If you’re curious to see the full list and find your favourites, check it out  here.

With loose items like grapes, the sticker will still be found on the outside of the bag or packaging – so be sure to keep an eye out for it!

If you’re curious to learn more about your product’s specific code, we found out how so you don’t have to. Simply drop it into the  PLU code finder – it does all the work for you.

1 Response

Maria van der Linden

Maria van der Linden

August 10, 2022

I don’t know about the ‘fully edible’ claim but one thing I know they do not break down in the compost heap. I stopped putting them in my compost bin years ago but still find them in my garden where I used compost in my garden. I’d prefer them not to be on any fruit products.

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