Labels Reveal Organic

The Philadelphia Enquirer
Posted on Wed, Jun. 26, 2002

Sticky But Useful Fruit Labels reveal organic or genetically modifies origins of your produce!

As much as we may dislike them, the stickers or labels attached to fruit speed up the scanning rocess at checkout.

Cashiers no longer need to distinguish a Fuji apple from a Gala apple, a prickly pear from a horned melon, or a grapefruit from an ugli fruit.

They simply key in the PLU code – the price lookup number printed on the sticker – and the market’s computerized cash register identifies the fruit by its PLU.

The numbers also enable retailers to track how well individual varieties are selling.

For conventionally grown fruit, the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9. Genetically engineered fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8.

So, a conventionally grown banana would be 4011, an organic banana would be 94011, and a genetically engineered banana would be 84011.

The numeric system was developed by the Produce Electronic Identification Board, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association, a Newark, Del.-based trade group for the produce industry. As of October 2001, the board had assigned more than 1,200 PLUs for individual produce items.

Fruit companies hear plenty of complaints from consumers about hard-to-remove stickers. Retailers gripe that stickers fall off or become marred during transport.

In response, some shippers have begun using stickers designed with tabs that make them easier to lift off, and are buying equipment that applies adhesive to the sticker but not to the tab.

Companies are also experimenting with different sticker materials, such as vinyl, that hold up under a variety of temperature and moisture conditions.

The adhesive now used to attach the stickers is food-grade, but the stickers themselves aren’t edible. To remove stubborn ones, soak in warm water for a minute or two