If You See This Number on Fruit’s Sticker: Avoid

July 20, 2019

These days, it’s hard to know what to look for at the grocery store. With lots of information out on the internet about nutrition and food safety, there’s a lot to take into account when you buy fruits and vegetables. Locally grown? In season? Organic? Free trade?

More than all of this, big food companies and supermarkets don’t always give you as much information as you’d like to have when you’re making a decision about something as important as feeding your family!

Today, we’ll give you insider hacks for how to know more about the produce you’re buying. Best of all, it’s right there hidden in plain sight.

The secret is anything fancy; it’s something you see on just about every piece of fruit and on the ties around vegetables. We’re talking about the little barcodes and numbers that cashiers use to ring your purchases up.

These numbers are called PLU (price look up), so they help supermarkets keep track of their inventories and speed up the check-out process. But what most people don’t know is that these simple codes can also give you important information about what kind of produce you’re looking at.

1. Conventional – four numbers in the PLU

Let’s imagine that you’re buying the most popular fruit in America—no it’s not apples, it’s bananas. Most bananas that we eat are the sweet yellow variety called Cavendish. They all share the same basic code: 4011. If you see this code, the standard for most bananas, what you’re looking at is a conventional banana.

What does conventional mean? Conventionally grown produce often receives chemical fertilizers to increase the size and accelerate the growth of the fruit. Farmers can also use synthetic insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides to protect the crop. But all this can come at the expense of your health and the environment.

Because bananas are grown on large plantations with no other crops, they require lots of pesticides. These pesticides harm the workers who harvest them and the people who live nearby. Thanks to the banana’s thick peel, however, you don’t have to worry about absorbing them yourself.

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