Fruits and vegetables often come with these little stickers on them. No one really knows why they’re there and since they don’t get in our way we often tend to just ignore them. But, these stickers do have a purpose and they’re not what you think. We’re here to finally get to the bottom of why they’re on our produce, what they mean, and what it means for us in the long run.

Officially, the sticker is called a PLU sticker and it stands for “price look up.” Despite the fact that we’ve been told they offer information on how our food is grown, they’re really just there for cashiers to help them scan items at the correct price and determine what the food is. Given that there are so many variations of fruits and vegetables out there, these stickers tell employees all

The 2016 guidelines published by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) further explains everything you ought to know about PLUs. The introduction of these stickers first came in 1990 and they’ve since acted as a voluntary measure by various countries that are represented on the IFPS board of directors. In other words, a PLU sticker technically isn’t a mandatory measure. There are plenty of places you can go where no PLUs can be found on fruits, vegetables, or nuts.

Yes, the numbers published on the stickers are meant to help determine loose items from bulk items, but that doesn’t mean consumers can’t get some information from them

What Codes Are Used?

According to the IFPS guidelines, numbers on PLUs range from 3000, 4000, and 83000 and 84000 series. This means that the numbers you see on the stickers will either read “3XXX”, “4XXX” and so on depending on the item.

What Do The Codes Mean?

Any number from 3000-4999 means that the item was conventionally grown. The IFPS is changing the way PLUs convey information, though, because numbers prefaced with an 8 used to mean the item was genetically modified. However, they are now implementing new rules so that “an additional range of numbers will be used, 83000-83999, for conventionally grown items.”