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1.22.2013

EVERYTHING YOU EVER or never WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PLUs


There are things that I don't a know lot about.  Like for instance, how do you get a job writing greeting cards.  It seems that there aren't a lot of original not already been said things yet to be penned.  What would qualify you to have such a job - a degree in creative writing, a penchant for off color age-humor or sappy sentimental phrasings, the ability to translate general or collective human thoughts and emotions into specific word pictures?

I also don't know alot about the universal produce code numbering system.  Who created such a system as the 4-digit number associated with all fresh fruits and vegetables sold in bulk by number or weight?  Currently in my house I have a bunch of #4011's, one-#4759, 6-#4166's, one #4053 and a few various other numbers.  Who determines what item of produce is assigned what number and why?

I find the Produce Dewey Decimal System intriguing, so I set out to find out more about it.  I was curious as to why most started with a 4.  I know it doesn't change anything dramatically in my life.  I will continue to punch in those produce codes in the self-checkout lanes at the store, but I wanted to know why.  I have lots of why questions about lots of things.  Why, I don't know.

This is what I garnered from my Google search box of who created the numbering system for produce . . .

  1. The numbers help the store clerk distinguish specific types of produce from one another in the system to speed up check-out.  That number is the PLU (Price Look-Up).
  2. It tells how the product is grown or created. IE, conventionally grown produce have a four digit PLU number.  Organically grown produce have a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 9.  And, genetically engineered produce have a 5-digit PLU that starts with an 8.
  3. The numeric system was developed by the Produce Electronic Identification Board, an affiliate of the Produce Marketing Association, a trade group for the produce industry.
  4. The adhesive used to adhere the sticker to the produce is food-grade edible, but the sticker itself is not.

If you buy a lot of produce like me, you find that certain produce items make removing that PLU sticker difficult.  Take for instance peppers.  It could be the type of thin skin that a pepper has, but invariably when trying to remove the sticker I usually remove a small portion of the skin of the pepper.  There is no universal standard for how sticky the PLU stickers for each type of produce should or should not be.  That is a controversy presently - the uniformity of materials used to produce the stickers.  It is a life-altering, world-changing sort of policy in the making.

Again, this PLU Produce Dewey Decimal world is a bit unknown to me.  I still didn't really come up with solid information regarding why those certain sets of numbers were connected to fruit and vegetables. 

So my conventionally grown bunch of #4011's would be organically raised if the PLU number read 94011 and genetically modified if the number on the bunch read #84011.  I am glad they mark genetically engineered produce.  Too bad most food items don't indicate that they are chocked full of genetically engineered seed or ingredients.  Next time you see #4011 you will know you are buying conventional bananas.  If you buy 84053 you are purchasing organic lemons for your lemon bars or lemonade.

I'm wondering how you get to be a part of the Produce Electronic Identification Board and how many times a year they meet? I bet those are riveting meetings. So thankful am I that someone put order to the chaotic world of produce.

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