Ever wonder why stickers are put on fruits and vegetables? They seem to be on all produce – from McIntosh apples to beefstake tomatoes. Those stickers are called produce look-up number (PLU) stickers, and the number on the sticker identifies the fruit or vegetable when run across the scanner at the checkout line. Just think – with the dozens of varieties of apples, melons, potatoes, and squash available, we would be in the checkout lines forever watching a frustrated cashier try to determine whether to ring up a carnival or delicata squash. Those pesky stickers do have a purpose!
The codes on the stickers reveal something else – how the fruit or vegetable was grown. It is a voluntary system, but pretty reliable. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables have a four digit number on the label beginning with the number 4. Genetically modified (GM) fruits and vegetables have a five digit number beginning with the number 8. And organic fruits and vegetables have five digit numbers beginning with the number 9. For example, a conventionally grown banana has the number 4011 on its sticker, a GM banana is numbered 84011, and an organic banana is 94011.
Trying to remove the sticker can be tricky too. Just soak the fruit or vegetable in water for a few minutes should make removal easier. If some of the glue doesn’t come off – no worries – it’s a food safe adhesive.
If you want to know how a fruit or vegetable was grown, the pesky label will have the answer.