What do the stickers on your produce really mean?

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produce-sticker-codes-explanation

What are those stickers on your produce?

PLU codes are 4 or 5 digit numbers which have been used by supermarkets since 1990 to make check-out and inventory control easier, faster, and more accurate. They ensure that the correct price is paid by consumers by removing the need for cashiers to identify the product; e.g., whether or not it is conventionally or organically grown.

They are primarily assigned to identify individual bulk fresh produce (and related items such as nuts and herbs) and will appear on a small sticker applied to the individual piece of fresh produce.  The PLU number identifies produce items based upon various attributes which can include the commodity, the variety, the growing methodology (e.g., organic) and the size group.
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What do the stickers mean?

These codes typically begin with a 3 or 4 and indicate that your fruit was grown conventionally, which includes the presence of pesticides. Don’t panic, though: the pesticide levels are so low they aren’t harmful. 
Source

Are they GMO?

If the label’s code has five digits and begins with an 8, then the fruit or vegetable has been genetically modified (also known as GMOs, or genetically modified organisms).  Twenty-six countries currently ban or have strict restrictions on GMO produce (Poland and Italy signed on to ban Monsanto GMO corn in 2013). Source

natural-vs-organic-produce-chart

After reading this, I really don’t want to eat anything that’s not organic!

foodnews-dot-org-organic-produce-chart

My general rule is that I buy organic when it’s cost effective.  If there is a minor price difference between organic versus conventional, I will buy organic. Whatever I buy, I clean it all when I get home from the store.

I usually soak my produce in a bowl with an organic cleaning solution (purchased at Sprouts). 

Then I carefully rinse everything and wipe clean or let the produce air dry.

veggie-wash-bottles

You can also make your own cleaning solution by using 1 cup white vinegar with 3 cups of filtered water and soaking your produce in a large bowl. If you are really serious about cleaning your fruits and vegetables, you can get a brush and clean each piece individually.

For more reading, including the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, head over to the EWG here. 

how-to-store-your-groceries-infographic

I found this infographic on Pinterest, it’s very helpful especially during the summer when fruit tends to go bad quickly.

I keep all the vegetables in the fridge with the exception of tomatoes.

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