(WYTV)- Grab an apple from the store and probably noticed a little sticker attached to the fruit with a row of four or five numbers on it.
Those digits are called the PLU, or Price Look-Up code, making it easy for checkout clerks to know what to charge for a particular item. But that little number also can tell you the specific variety of a certain fruit or vegetable you’re going to eat, and whether it was grown conventionally or on an organic farm.
The International Federation for Produce Standards puts those numbers on fresh produce. They first appeared in 1988 so supermarkets could tell the difference between conventionally grown fruits and vegetables and higher priced organic food.
In the United States, about half of our fresh produce doesn’t arrive in packaging, so the sticker is the main source of information on what type of produce it is and how it was grown. Stickers that start with the numbers 3 or 4 mean the item was grown conventionally, and those starting with 9 indicate the item was grown organically.
The codes are really not meant to tell the consumer anything, they’re a business tool. There are now more than 1,500 different PLUs in use around the globe.
If you want to know what a particular one means, you can look it up on a PLU search app. 3114 is an extra-large green mango. Can you eat one of those stickers?
Sure, they’ll do no harm but they have no nutritional value and eventually a laser will etch the codes into fruits and vegetables.