Skip to content
Home » What those numbers on fruit stickers mean

What those numbers on fruit stickers mean

• Most fruit and veggies have stickers on them, and many of these stickers don’t just feature the brand name, but also a cryptic number.
• These numbers are codes, and they divulge info like whether something was grown organically or not, whether it was genetically modified, etc.

The PLU code for a granny smith apple is 4017, no matter where you buy one. (Alan Levine/Flickr)

There are a lot of things that we interact with on a daily basis, but we don’t truly understand. (For instance: why are airplane windows round?)

The stickers we see on fruit and vegetables are one of those things. Little do you know, there’s an entire world of information located on that sticker, thanks to the short number on each.

These codes share information on how the item was grown — organically or with pesticides, and whether or not it is genetically modified. If you’re looking for a quick answer, here’s a quick rundown of the different codes.

Four numbers, beginning with a 3 or a 4

If your fruit or vegetable was made with conventional farming techniques, then you’ll find a four-digit code that starts with a three or a four.

Five numbers, beginning with an 8

A five-digit code starting with an eight means that the item is genetically modified. You’re unlikely to see this at your grocery store, according to Consumer Reports, because widely sold genetically modified foods are versions of corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, papaya, and squash. So not that orange or bunch of broccoli you’re eyeing. Also, labeling food as genetically modified is not mandatory.

Five numbers, beginning with a 9

A five-digit code beginning with nine means you’re about to purchase organic produce.

Want to know more about what that code means? You can look it up on the International Federation for Produce Standards websit