Know your PLU Codes

Do you know what you are eating when you buy fruits and veggies at the grocery store? Here is what you need to know.



The PLU code is commonly seen on fruits and vegetables. But what is a PLU code exactly? The PLU in PLU code stands for Price Look-Up, and the code is affixed to fruits, vegetables and other products for the purpose of inventory and pricing control. The codes have been in use since the 1990s to make the check out process easier at grocery stores. This is important since there can be a range of prices for the same fruit, depending on if it has been grown organically or not. The system also helps with inventory control and ensuring there are accurate amounts counted in the grocery store. There are over 1300 PLU codes in use today. These codes were originally meant for the use of the grocer, however by you understanding their meaning you can know if a fruit or vegetable is conventionally grown, organic or genetically modified.

PLU Codes for Conventionally Grown Produce

Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are coded with a four digit PLU code. They begin with either a 3 or a 4. A conventionally grown fruit or vegetable may have been treated with pesticides and chemicals to preserve its freshness. Chemicals are also used to treat weeds that are in the soil, and to reduce pests and disease from overtaking the produce crops.

Produce PLU Codes for Organically Grown Produce

Organic produce will have five digits and will begin with a 9. Organic produce has been grown without the use of pesticides, fungicides and related chemicals. The farming practices are designed to reduce pollution and include organic methods like composting. An example of the organic PLU code is a red onion, which has a conventionally grown produce PLU code of 4082. If a red onion has been organically grown, it will have a PLU code of 94082.

PLU Codes for Genetically Modified Produce

If a code has five digits and begins with an 8, it is genetically modified (GM) food. These foods are commonly called GM foods or genetically modified organisms (GMO). Again we will use the example of the red onion, which has a produce PLU code of 4082. If a red onion has been genetically modified, it will have a code of 84082.


Even if you grow your own food, you still need to purchase fruits and vegetables at the supermarket from time to time. Keep the PLU Codes in mind so that you can make an informed decision about what you purchase.



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