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Deciphering Produce Codes

You may have heard by now that its best to avoid hybrid fruits and vegetables including genetically modified fruits and vegetables.

You can go to this site and download a list of non-GMO and GMO produce plus shopping tips on how to avoid GMO produce.

Non-GMO Shopping Guide


Dr. Mercola  states on his website:

Organic Lemon - PLU code begins with a "9"

Organic Lemon – PLU code begins with a “9”


…avoid hybrid varieties, which are fruits that have been altered by humans. Typically hybrid fruits contain more sugar than regular varieties so they taste sweeter and can be picked out because generally they don’t contain seeds (seedless watermelon, seedless grapes, etc.). Although there are also seeded hybrid varieties, avoiding seedless fruits is one of the more prominent ways to avoid hybrid fruits.

Its one thing to go to the grocery with that goal in mind but its quite another to figure out those codes so as to know what you’re getting. Here are some practical ways to know what you’re buying.

The codes on your produce aren’t just random numbers as I am sure you know by now. And the The International Federation for Produce Standards has worked since 1990 to get all the produce sold in the US uniformly coded. (My note: Now just because they have instituted these codes doesn’t mean that ALL grocery stores or produce growers USE them.)

They state in their guidelines:

PLU codes have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. Fresh fruit and vegetable PLU codes are used to identify bulk produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs).

All conventionally grown produce that is sold in the US has a code made up of four numbers. Like this one for 4130 – Pink Lady Apples.

Dr. Mercola explains that a 4 digit code means that the produce is conventionally grown with conventional practices, herbicides, pesticides, etc.

Conventionally grown kiwi PLU has 4 digits

If there is a “9” before the 4 number code that denotes that the produce is organic.

An “8” denotes that it is genetically modified.

Conventionally grown PLU:  4030

Organically grown PLU: 94030

Genetically modified PLU: 84030

So, be a ‘reader” when you shop for produce! Its easy to avoid what you don’t want.

But let me warn you; the codes beginning with “8” and “9” haven’t caught on with producers. Right now the Monsanto company is trying very hard to keep labeling on genetically modified foods from happening because it would keep most people from buying them.


  1. Tina

    I have a hard time at Costco with their confusing produce codes. Some begin with all different numbers so is hard to even consider purchasing them when you can’t even decipher their origin.
    Tina recently posted..Mammograms? Are they really safe?

    • Sylvia

      I agree, Tina. I wonder if you could ask the manager to help you decipher the codes?

  2. Karen D

    I’ve been seeing a few fruits with a PLU beginning with 3. Any idea what this code means?

    • Sylvia

      I have read that heirloom fruits and vegetables’ PLU code starts with a 3 but I don’t know that for a fact.

  3. Anna

    Thank you so much for this information. I will be a reader!
    Anna recently posted..Northern Spring