April 23, 2013

Understanding PLU Labels

We have seen these types of pictures circulating around facebook several times the past week...

• Know labeling requirements: PLU labeling is optional so not all produce will have labels (however, *most* sold in grocery stores will have a PLU code).

• Understand GMO labeling: the 5-digit codes beginning with 9 are organic. The 5-digit code starting with 8 is for GMO food -BUT- manufacturers are not required to label genetically modified foods so they don't use that code & are using the 4-digit conventional code instead.

• Know common GMO crops: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sugar beets (ie: white table sugar), papaya, zucchini, and squash are the major GMO crops. Corn, soy & sugar beets (labeled sugar) are used in most all canned, boxed, bagged (ie: processed) foods. Also - meat, dairy & eggs from livedstock, which are fed a GMO grain diet. Buy 100% organic and/or opt for grass-fed / pastured meat, dairy & eggs. 

• Read labels thoroughly: if an item on an ingredient label is listed as 100% organic, it cannot be GMO as USDA regulation prohibits GMOs from being labeled organic. Also, look for these third-party organic certification agencies whose organic standards are stricter than the USDA... look for: QAI, Oregon Tilth, and CCOF. Also, look for the Non-GMO Project verified seal on labels.

• Shop local & grow your own: the best place to buy organically grown non-GMO produce, meat, dairy & eggs is from local farmers. Ask them questions, stop by their farm for a visit, join a produce or meat share & shop farmer's markets. Plant a small garden and grow your own food. If space is an object, you can do a considerable amount of growing on patios and/or rooftops using containers & vertical gardening practices. Get creative! Plant food in your landscaping: instead of only planting annual flowers on your beds, mix in some herbs & veggies too.

• Research, research, research. The food industry can be confusing & overwhelming. It changes constantly & so do the regulations and requirements, or lack thereof. If something seems to good to be true in the "big agra" food industry, research it, because chances are, it probably is... like the idea that manufacturers are placing the number 8 in their PLU codes to openly admit their produce is genetically modified... when they're not required to label GMOs, let alone use a PLU code.

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