Here’s What The Stickers On Produce Really Mean At Your Local Supermarket [video]

Updated March 9, 2017

You’ve probably already come to the conclusion that those stickers on your produce are used for the cashier to scan and check you out, but there is a lot more that goes on behind the sticker that contains the PLU (price lookup) number. While it gives the fruit or veggie and ID so the cashier knows what to ring you up for, it also tells you how the produce was grown. Yep, that little sticker leads to some pretty important answers such as whether or not your fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical herbicides, fertilizers, or fungicides.

If you are unsure about what sticker we are talking about, here is an image that might help you remember…

If the sticker only contains four numbers, then it is telling you that the produce was grown traditionally, with the use of pesticides. For a traditionally grown crop, there are only four numbers but those numbers also tell you what type of fruit or veggie your are purchasing. For this example, the number 4131 means that you are purchasing a traditionally grown apple.

Now, if there are five numbers on the sticker code, and 8 is the first number, then that means that the produce has been genetically modified. This means that the fruit or veggie has been meddled with an an unnatural way. In other words, it was created in a lab and cannot be found in nature. An example of a banana that was genetically modified (GMO) is: 84011. Keep in mind that bananas are always listed as 4011, so the 8 is the magic number that tells you if it was tampered with. Another term for this is “Genetically Engineered,” (GE).

On the other end of the spectrum, if there are five numbers on the sticker and the number starts with 9, that means that the crop was grown organically. In this case, a banana would be 94011.

Now, as far as the placement of the sticker goes…the adhesive is considered food-grade and safe to eat, however; the actual sticker is not safe to consume. Keep this in mind when you are giving your child a piece of fruit for a snack.

If you are really into the method that goes on behind the madness of grocery store produce, then you can keep tabs on your favorite fruits and veggies at the Environmental Working Groups site.

There are two major lists that apply to consumers who are interested in learning more about their produce purchases.

The first is known as the top five “Clean Fifteen,” items and these are the ones that are cleaner and not tampered with…

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (Frozen)

And at the other end, there are the top five that are more tampered with than others. The following are known as the top five of the “Dirty Dozen…”

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery

The Dirty Dozen is more likely to be genetically modified and may have spent some time in a lab prior to hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. Surely, this will get you to think about your produce purchases with a lot more thought.