We just discovered your best grocery store hack yet. Remember that little sticker on your Georgia peach or Granny Smith apple? Turns out, those four or five-digit numbers can tell you a whole bunch (pun intended) about your supermarket produce. (By the way, this is what nutritionists always do at the grocery store.)
Also called Price Look-Up (PLU) number, this code says a lot about the goods you’re buying. Not only does it price your fruits or veggies at the checkout line, but it can also reveal clues as to the type of produce and how it was grown, Mental Floss reports.
If your PLU contains 5 digits, you’re in luck! Check out the first number of the code. A PLU beginning with 0 is a sign that the food was conventionally grown, while a 9 indicates that it’s organic. The occasional PLU starting with an 8 indicates that the produce was genetically modified. Still, organic lovers can breathe easy; the only fresh genetically modified produce sold in the U.S. today are corn, soybeans, papaya, and squash. (Surprised? We bet you didn’t know these things about organic food, either.)
Now you see why these stickers are super useful—not just for growers and supermarkets, but for shoppers like you, too! But unfortunately, because the codes aren’t mandatory, many growers omit the first digit from PLU stickers. A four-digit number can make it extra tough for shoppers to distinguish the normal from the natural.
Looking to buy organic or non-genetically modified? Thankfully, there’s an easy alternative. Just keep an eye out for produce labeled with the USDA organic logo. And be wary of “GMO-free” and “non-GMO” labels; since those terms haven’t been regulated in the U.S., there’s no guarantee you’re getting the genuine deal.
If you favor the fresh, check out this amazing guide to buying seasonal produce, including all of your favorite fruits and vegetables.