Chris' Corner: Buying Produce? What the PLU Codes Mean to you

Buying Produce? What the PLU Codes Mean to you

I must admit that, although I have seen them on various fruits and vegetables for years, I did not know anything about them (other than assuming they helped identify fruit for pricing purposes...

example of PLU Code
PLU of Organic Mango

... until today.  As regular readers might remember, I posted an article last month on Carron Farms, a local certified sustainable and organic farm (located in the Holland Marsh).  fyi, they have a food share program that starts June 20th and runs in to October and a Jacob's food program that helps deliver fresh produce to local families in need.

This morning, my curiosity aroused by a promotion by another local organic farm, I started researching PLU Codes.

Let me preface my findings with this warning, if you feel this information is important to you, confirm it for yourself, and then tell people you care about.  There seems to be a lot of information and misinformation out on the interweb (apologies to Brent Butt - on whose show "Corner Gas" I first heard this term).

PLU labeling applies to loose produce (fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, herbs, flavourings and nuts) that have not been additionally processed.

The leading digit qualifier (the first of five numbers) can either be a "0", "9", or an "8".

0 - applies to non-qualified produce and the zero is often skipped resulting in a four digit PLU code

8 - Genetically Modified

9 - Organic

A four digit number starting with a "3" or a "4" (and/or a five digit number starting with "0" having a second digit "3" or '4"), would indicate produce traditionally grown (possibly using herbicides and pesticides).

There is a free iPhone "APP" that will help identify what these codes mean.  Search for WHATVEGGIE. 

Now, again, those who know me, know that I rarely "preach".  I prefer to ask questions and give information and suggest you investigate for yourself and make your own informed decision...

Until this year, our family has put little value on "organically" grown.  We have seen that they are normally more expensive and not appreciated the value of them.  But our opinion has changed.

I do not know much about Genetically Modified produce, but, given the choice, would prefer to stay clear of this type of produce.  My research into this topic lead me to some information on irradiation.  This is another process that I would prefer to avoid in foods I and my loved ones consume.

Proponents of irradiation tend to promote that the process can reduce pathogens, but, imho, at what cost?  If this topic might concern you, I would suggest you investigate for yourself and make your own choice.

Likewise, I prefer to buy food that does not contain steroids and/or anti-biotics.  There is much information available on these topics and I would urge you to visit / re-visit the issue and make your own informed choices.

As we learned of these processes, we gradually made the choice to gravitate to more locally grown fresh produce (the additional benefit to the planet was also a mitigating factor).  This year we have made the choice to try and buy more organic food (meat, milk/milk products, nuts, fruit and vegetables) versus traditionally grown produce and also to attempt to grow more of our own fruit and vegetables.

Over time, I want to see if it is possible for us to buy fresh local produce in season and can or freeze for use in the off-season.  My father used to grow tomatoes (for example) and as a child, I loved the taste of a fresh tomato.  Now, I do not like the taste of what most supermarkets sell as fresh tomatoes.  It is my understanding that produce such as tomatoes are picked on farms far away (usually green) in advance and transported to us, that they are induced to turn a more appealing colour (using a gas such as ethylene or similar process). 

If you are interested in learning more,
this IFPS document on Produce PLU might be informative

Here is a video with some more questions and some information

... this video, though presented in a controversial manner, has some good information in it.  Again, I advise anyone and everyone to research and make choices that you feel are right for you and your loved ones.

Are you interested in moving out into an area where you can buy fresh local meats and produce? ... where there is an abundance of fresh locally grown organic meat and produce?  Call me, Chris Smith, @ 1.866.936.3500 (or e-mail me at for information and assistance in helping you achieve your Real Estate Goals.

Chris Smith CSSBB
          Sales Representative

Interested in Buying or Selling Real Estate?

  ph: 1.866.936.3500

Chay Realty Inc.,

Comment balloon 14 commentsChris Smith • June 21 2012 04:43AM


It is wise to buy organic apples and strawberries...a lot of vegetables like Brocoli are ok to buy tradionally farmed.

Posted by Edward Gilmartin (CRE) over 8 years ago

Hi Chris - Organic produce is definetly the way to go. I have gardened for years using only heirloom seeds.  There is nothing like a fresh, vine-ripened tomato, juicy blueberries or raspberries, freshly picked green beans, peppers or zucchini, etc.  Anyone can grow their own produce - they can even be grown in containers for people who have limited space and you know what is or isn't used on your food.  I can and freeze a lot of our own produce for winter - they taste so much better than store bought!  This information is wonderful to know about.  Thank you for sharing!  

Posted by Lorena McMullen, Serving SE Michigan (3DX Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Chris, there's some pretty scary things going on with the food we eat. Hopefully more and more people start taking note of what's happening and decide to pay more attention to the things they are feeding their families.

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) over 8 years ago

Great post Chris... Rich and I are really into organic...  It is a fact that we are what we eat... Not sure why most folks aren't more interested as well as concerned about what's going into their bodies...

PS... I love those homegrown tomatoes!!!

Posted by Beth and Richard Witt, Long Island Cash Home Buyer 516-330-6940 (Long Island Cash Home Buyer) over 8 years ago
You sure shed a different light on those PLU codes you, I thought they were for pricingl
Posted by Al & Peggy Cunningham, Brokers, Our Family Wants To Help Your Family! (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Edward, I am new to the game, thanks for the information.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Lorena, attempting to grow heirloom seeds is probably our next step.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Malcolm, I think the time has past when we could shop based on price alone


Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Beth, we are justing starting along the path... but it makes a lot of sense...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Al and Peggy, until a few days ago, so did I

I have downloaded WHATVEGGIE and will make better choices in the future.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Very interesting topic.  I bet that most consumers do not know the meaning of the code.  Thanks for sharing the explanation.

Have a great day and an outstanding weekend.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 8 years ago

This is a great blog! I caught it on ROy's post on G+. Really fascinating and I didn't know this at all. I am bookmarking this and going to check out that app! That's awesome to know.

Posted by Tammy Emineth, Content Marketer, SEO Teacher, Website Fixer (Personal SEO - Website SEO and Real Estate Marketing) over 8 years ago

Howdy and afternoon Chris

Chris my friend, this here sure is an outstanding blog post, and you sure have done an outstanding job of explaining to folks about the PLU labeling. My lady and I are members of one of our local Farm's food share program. Folks sure do get a lot nicer fruits and vegetables from being a member of the program, than is found in most grocery stores. 

Have a good one

Dale in New Hampshire

Posted by Dale Baker, New Hampshire Relocation Real Estate Information (Baker Energy Audits and Commercial Properties Inspections) over 8 years ago

Chris - an eye opener for sure ..... when you think about it one can't help but wonder if the increase in allergies can be directly attributed to the treatment of the food we eat.

Posted by Kathy Clulow, Trusted For Experience - Respected For Results (RE/MAX All-Stars Realty Inc. Brokerage) over 8 years ago