While the proposed mandatory GMO labeling law didn’t pass in the state of California during the last election, Whole Foods recently announced that all of their suppliers will need to adhere to mandatory GMO labeling requirements by 2018. This step by Whole Foods is one of the most important to pressure the food industry into mandatory GMO labeling.
Until that time, here are a few hints on how you can figure out what you’re buying and whether or not it contains GMOs.
The digits are referred to as the produce look-up code (PLU). PLUs are the way that the produce industry manages inventory and pricing. There’s a 4-digit PLU code assigned for almost all items sold in the produce aisle, from fruits and veggies to herbs and spices and even some nuts and dried fruit.
Several websites have reported that certain PLU codes will help you detect genetically modified items However, to date, no one is using the “8” to indicate a GMO product. Probably because companies aren’t required tell us if their product contains genetically modified material.
PLU codes are the only way to tell what you’re eating. But since it’s a voluntary program, don’t expect too many produce suppliers to put stickers indicating GMOs.
The PLU for bananas is “4011” a GMO banana would be 84011. On the other hand, the symbol for organic is the number “9” in front of the 4-digit PLU code so 94011 would indicate an organic banana: you’ll see plenty of 94011-labeled bananas in supermarkets.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD