Read the Numbers on Your Fruit

Sticker Label with Produce Code on an Apple

I just found this out about a month ago and I’ve been an organic vegan for over four years, go figure. That just goes to say that we must all remain as students and continue to learn and learn — never stop studying and gaining new information.

Okay, so what did I learn?

I learned that sticker labels (produce codes) on fruits actually tell you how the fruits have been grown — whether they were organically grown or conventionally grown with pesticides and herbicides; oh, and let’s not forget about the genetically engineered fruits. Also, I wondered about the safety of putting those stickers on fruits and found out that though the adhesive used to stick them is edible-safe, the label itself is not. So, you need to peel it off (and wash your produce anyway).

Where is that Label?

These days, you’ll find that fruits like apples and bananas have a small sticker on each one of them. They are also called PLU (Price Look up Code). Apart from the scan-able vertical bars on them, you’ll notice a number also. It is this number that you have to pay attention to, to discover the true grown nature of your produce. If this bunch of fruit is in a bag then that label should be on the bag.

Let’s look at what some of these labels mean:

Conventional Fruit Labels

Produce stickers that have numbers beginning with a 3 or a 4, and the number being four digits long only, indicate that it is a conventionally grown product. Yes, that means it was sprayed with all those pesticides and chemicals that you are trying to wean away from your food.

Organic Fruit Labels

Now for the sticker that you WANT to see on your produce; this one starts with a number 9 and is five digits long. It tells you that the fruit or produce is grown and raised organically without being treated with any chemicals.

Genetically Modified Fruits

If you are wondering whether your produce is genetically engineered or not, look for the labels that have a number starting with an 8 and is five digits long. Not only has this kind of produce been genetically modified, it might have further been treated with harmful chemicals too! Needless to say, I wouldn’t be recommending to buy this one, if you truly care for your health.

Remember, this is good to know because stores aren’t obligated to tell you if a fruit has been genetically modified (grrr….).


Okay, so if you come across an apple in the store and it’s labeled 4922, it’s an conventional apple grown with herbicides and harmful fertilizers. If it has a sticker 99222, it’s organic and safe to eat. If it says 89222, then RUN!!!! It has been genetically modified (GMO).

So next time you go shopping, remember these critical numbers and know how to avoid purchasing inorganic and GMO fruits.

Shop Safe :) .


David AskaripourDavid Askaripour, a prominent blogger based in New York, writes on the subject of natural healing among other things. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Television Talk Shows, books and local news channels.



  1. j says

    Genetically engineered food is not the problem, it’s how companies treat their monopoly on the food. GM food is not safe when it’s patented. Everything we buy suffers from corporate greed, from the materials on up. Pesticides – Monsanto knows it’s poisoning people, Bayer uses grub killer never having apologized for all the Jews they killed. Organic farms often cut their own corners, and sometimes torture animals. Living where we live has ensured that we will always live on the backs of other people. Everything we have is inundated with guilt, unless you want to go back to the beginning, nobody has the moral authority to say anything. We’re all trying goddamnit, and that’s what all of us, no matter what we believe, *can* do.

  2. Jimmy says

    I’m just wondering how you came across this information. I’m not a skeptic, I just like to check sources.

  3. Maria says

    Jimmy, will tell you a lot more. Each bit of produce is assigned a universal number to make for faster inventory and checkout, but it also helps savvy consumers identify what they’re buying.

  4. Travis Gardner says

    Look I have been involved in agriculture for my entire life I have eaten the common rabble at the supermarket and even had vegetables strait out of the field and I have never gotten sick from them. The government regulates which pesticides and fertilizers that can be used on crops to ensure our safety. Organic farming only works for those people or businesses that have a huge amount of land that can suffer a loss of up to 67% unlike your common American farmer like myself. We can’t afford not to protect our crops from harmful insects or weeds with a outrageously high germination rate. So just think about it the next time you buy your precious organic foods that you are contributing to the death of the common American farmer. Every year more and more of us are lost to huge corporate farms since we can’t provide crops at the same low price as those of Walmart farms. I hope you enjoy the knowledge that this organic craze is costing many of us our livelihoods.

    • says

      “So just think about it the next time you buy your precious organic foods that you are contributing to the death of the common American farmer.” No, we’re thinking about our own health and well-being when we purchase organic foods… And, my friend, I think that’s a bit more important than big businesses.

      • Lew says

        Your an idiot if you think organic food is better for you, there is not one shred of credible evidence that even remotely suggests this. You sir David Askaripour are a victim of propaganda, and equally as guilty as Monsanto in buying into it.

        • Douglas Barnes says

          And yet the UK’s Food Standards Agency published a paper last year finding that organic produce had 53.6% more beta-carotene, 38.4% flavonoids, 13.2% more phenolic compounds, 12.7% more protein, 11.3% more zinc, 10.5% more sulphur, 8.7% more sodium, 8.3% more copper, 7.1% more magnesium, 6% more phosphorus, and 2.5% more potassium. After finding all that, interestingly enough, their opinion was that there were “no important differences in the nutrition content , or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.” Too bad their own evidence did not support their conclusion.

          • S says

            The US government always tells us the exact opposite of whatever the evidence tells them, depending on how much money they can make out of it.

        • tavis says

          Calling people names then trying to educate them isn’t the best method of communication. Information is the key and just like everyone else we all want healthy food for our families. Large corporations and greed are a tough opponent so local / smaller farmers need to work hard to educate consumers and also provide them with alternatives.

          Here are my thoughts on how to help the issue minus slandering anyone ( i save that for bad drivers and carnival folk).

          1st: As a country we waste to much food at the dinner table, so lets be more conscious about eating our whole meal, and only making what we intend to eat. I like to precook food for the week in advance so when i am hungry i can grab something healthy and eat it cold or stove top warmed. If i don’t finish i save it for a snack , but i know how much i eat now so i can avoid waste and reheating multiple times. This allows me to buy the more expensive cleaner foods without going over budget.

          2nd: Its also about what and where we buy , because in order to take the power from the big business we need to buy less processed foods made from corn( watch the movie food inc its a great film and eye opener). Kick back on the cookies , ice creams , all the stuff that is so great tasting ( i have a big sweet tooth and admit it is hard).
          you can also try to source farmers markets when available ( I’m in so-cal so its easy) , and if not available source the best thing you can , support small grocery stores that support small farmers.

          3rd: Here are some quick eating tips:
          - Drink more water , the body sometimes tricks you and says your hungry but your dehydrated.
          - eat smaller portions more often , a double whopper is bad the sizing the additives all of it , eat 3 meals a day and 2-3 snacks , fruit & veggies , trust me it will give you more energy and keep your sugar levels steady.
          - pre cook meals – have good stuff ready in advance , if you are lucky enough to have a job you may not have time to cook.

          If you actually read this rant well done , hope the info helps. If we combine conscious eating , with conscious shopping we can give the power to the small farms , reduce our dependence on big corps , and find a better balance with nature again. I feel science and genetic altering can provide benefits if done with the right intention. Pumping a chicken with saline so its bigger and cost more isn’t the way , genetically altering soy beans then patenting the seed while poisoning the remaining supply is criminal.

          Feed your self and your children life , not for the profit of someones portfolio.

    • Maria Pollari says

      Many small farms are going organic — I myself belong to a CSA here in NY, and the owner is a small-scale farmer who appears to be flourishing because of the organic craze. Eating local food from a farm that produces a variety of crops, and not one massive yield of corn or potatoes or whatever, is important. I always consider the livelihood of the farmer as well, which is why I buy organic AND local whenever I can.

  5. Bushido Code says

    Hi David,

    What is the source of your information? I’m very concerned by the increased use of genetically modified food and would like to avoid it. Do you have a reference or web source that you obtained this information?



    • says

      Hey Marcus,

      I read it on a few other sites and spoke to fellow vegans about this issue — but you can easily ask any store owner and he’ll confirm this article. If I come across the site references, I’ll send them your way for sure.

  6. says

    Wow, I did not know that. I’m bookmarking this post.
    I’ll check it out on my next trip to the supermarket.

    .-= Peter Moss´s last blog ..How to configure IIS 7 to redirect requests made to non-www domain to www domain? =-.

  7. William says

    That’s a good article about Read the Numbers on Your Fruit » Skrewtips – Food is Medicine. Thanks for the info.

  8. says

    This is misleading info that keeps getting perpetuated. The 8 prefix to indicate genetically modified food is NEVER used. The PLU codes cannot be used to avoid GMOs. They only differentiate between organic and conventional for store inventory purposes. If it is organic it is not GMO, but conventional can be either for varieties that are genetically modified on a commercial basis such as Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, yellow crooked neck squash, corn, edamame, tobacco.

    See: http://www.huffingtonpost.​com/jeffrey-smith/plu-code​s-do-not-indicate_b_473088​.html
    PLU Codes Do Not Indicate Genetically Modified Produce
    No, the 5-digit PLU codes on produce do not tell you what is genetically modified or natural. These numbers, organized by the Produce Marketing Association, have nothing to do with you.

  9. Acrohn says

    The 8 prefix to indicate genetically modified food is NEVER used. The PLU codes cannot be used to avoid GMOs. They only differentiate between organic and conventional for store inventory purposes. If it is organic it is not GMO, but conventional can be either for varieties that are genetically modified on a commercial basis such as Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, yellow crooked neck squash, corn, edamame, tobacco. http://www.huffingtonpost.​com/jeffrey-smith/plu-code​s-do-not-indicate_b_473088​.html

  10. Kate says

    You know, GMOs are actually not unsafe. Some soy beans are GMOs and it helps them to grow without causing any sort of defects in those who eat them. I learned about them in some of my classes in college and it’s a huge SAFE industry. Don’t be stupid. Learn about things like that before deciding that they’re too scary for you little children.

  11. Katie says

    I am a senior agriculture student in college studying food safety and crop production. I just thought I would share with you that the pesticide/fertilizer regulations for organic foods only apply to the product, not the soil that it was grown in. Farmers are still allowed to improve soil qualities before planting. This means that some of the chemicals still end up in your produce.

    Our world population has increased dramatically over the last thirty years, and despite only a small increase in farmers, we still create enough food today to feed everyone in the world a 2000 calorie diet daily. This is thanks to improved conventional farming and GMO production. I fully respect an individual’s choices to avoid GMO and convention products, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that they aren’t safe or that consumers should “run” from them. They are perfectly safe products and they have done so much good for the agriculture industry. Food prices would be seven times what they are today without them. Organic farming is very difficult because of the crop loss farmers experience- and whether you choose to remember this or not: Organic farming is a business. Farmers want to lose as little crop as possible, so they improve the soil quality to increase their yield.

    For those who wish to eat organically, my advice is to start your own garden. Become a self-sufficient farmer and really learn what it takes to successfully grown your own food. You will have a much greater appreciation for the farmers that support our daily lives and you will be able to monitor your own produce and soil. If your interested in this, soil quality will still be an issue for growing- but look into crop rotation techniques and learn which crops deposit nutrients into the soil (giving it a better quality for growing). It will take time, but if your looking to eliminate pesticides and fertilizers from your diet, it may be the best option for you.

  12. Heather S says

    We grow a garden and we still have to use pesticides in order to fight off insects and worms or we wouldn’t have the produce that we are trying to grow. I am not sure how organic growers can produce anything with out pesticides. I hate to have to use them but see no other way around it.

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