The barcodes and labels on our fresh produce can tell us a story on both where the produce has come from, and how it was grown. If like me, you love to know that what you’re putting in your mouth is high quality and healthy, and the thought of being able to actively support Australian produce and our food production industry excites you, then you will enjoy this!
Let’s first talk about the origin.
When you look at the barcode on your foods, be sure to take note of the first 2-3 digits. This tells you where your food has come from.
USA & CANADA: 00-13
SWITZERLAND & LIECHTENSTEIN: 76
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: 629
CENTRAL AMERICA: 740-745
PHILIPPINES: All 480 codes
The following are some dangerous barcodes to look out for, as there are no food inspection regulations of foods grown or processed in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong or Thailand. Don’t forget the berry scare from Chinese Nanna’s we had recently!
CHINA & HONG KONG: 690 through to 695
There are also some products that are ‘sneaky’- so be wary. Highliner fish products for example, are raised in pens using chemicals, and then as they are processed and boxed in Canada, are labelled a ‘product of Canada’. Please think carefully before buying anything from China- their food regulating laws are just not the same as they are here.
Now, let’s cover production.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to know how their food is produced, be it following traditional farming practices, organically, or if it is genetically modified; yet a lot of the time it’s unknown as to how to find out this information! Here is where the PLU barcodes on fresh produce come into it.
PLU stands for Price Look Up, and are the four or five digit numbers that are used to identify Fresh Produce items, including items such as nuts and herbs. It’s that small sticker that is applied to the individual pieces of fresh produce. Yes, that not-so-annoying-now sticker on your apple that you sometimes forget to remove and that ends up in your first bite!
Here’s a guide to reading the labels:
CONVENTIONALLY-GROWN FRUIT: These four-digit numbers run through all the fruits. For example, guava is 4299 and a banana is 4011. You can also search PLU codes online.
ORGANICALLY-GROWN FRUIT: This produce has five digit labels that start with the number 9. An organically-grown banana would be 94011.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD: These five digit labels start with an 8, so for example, a genetically engineered vine ripe tomato would be 84805.
This kind of information really should be promoted more publicly so that as consumers, we can make more informed choices about the foods that we and our families eat. Unfortunately it is not, so please, forward this onto all your family and friends!