Nearly every piece of fruit in the produce aisle has a sticker on it, but most of us never give them much thought. But there are lots of interesting, little-known facts about fruit labels. Here are some of them:
The numbers on the labels have a deeper meaning.
The codes indicate how the fruit was grown. 4-digit codes (usually starting with 3 or 4) are given to fruits that are conventionally grown. 5-digit codes starting with a 9 are reserved for organics and the ones beginning with 8’s are GMOs.
The codes are the same everywhere.
The codes are fixed so it doesn’t matter what state you travel to, the code means the same from the East to West coast. For example, the 4011 code on bananas (indicating they are conventionally grown bananas) will be the same in every supermarket in the United States.
There are a lot of them.
There are over 1400 unique PLUs out there just for produce and produce-related items. Codes are assigned by the International Federation of Produce standards. Before issuing one, detailed reviews are conducted both nationally and internationally.
The glue used is safe to ingest.
If you’ve baked an apple pie only to realize you forgot to take the stickers off the apples, don’t worry. Although the FDA recommends washing produce and removing labels to avoid choking on them (especially for children), ingesting a label will likely not cause you harm. That’s because the labels are usually made of paper. Also the glues used to attach them to the fruit, are FDA-approved and safe to ingest.
There are high tech alternatives.
A safe, “no sticker” solution is in the works. Recently, a Florida man created a laser that can add the necessary PLU information to fruit by zapping the pigment out of its top layer. Thus far, it’s only been approved for use on citrus fruits.
They are made into art.
Barry Snyder is an artist out of Colorado, who takes old fruit labels and turns them into art. He creates mosaics from the colored stickers and his fans send him labels from all over the world.
They can be used to create collectible fruit.
A few entrepreneurial apple growers in China affix specially shaped stickers to young apples and take them off once the fruit has grown. What remains is a message or lucky symbol. Called the “Rolls Royce Apple”, the emblazoned apples can fetch one hundred dollars apiece!
Multi-tasking stickers are being invented.
A New York company is developing a fruit label that not only dissolves in water, it emits a soapy wash to help clean the fruit.