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Do Organic Products Need a Special PLU or UPC Code?


Question: Do Organic Products Need a Special PLU or UPC Code?

Universal Product Codes (UPCs) are not the same thing as a Price Look-Up (PLU) numbering scheme. Does either code need to be organic?


UPC codes originated with the Uniform Code Council, now called, GS1 US. UPC codes were originally developed to be used by grocers in order to speed up the checkout process, reduce pricing errors, and improve inventory management. Of course now many products, not simply groceries, use UPC codes. UPC codes are specifically used for retail point-of-sale (POS). UPC codes may be phasing out soon with the new, more in-depth GS1 DataBar.

The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) introduced a global standard for the use of international PLU numbers in 2001. A PLU code is assigned to items such as bulk foods or produce that need to be weighed or that come in bunches, such as nuts, herbs or apples. PLU codes can tell a cashier if strawberries are organic or not, and thus help the cashier determine the correct price. Reliable, across the board, PLU codes make check-out and inventory control much easier, faster and more accurate for both stores and consumers.

Right now, PLU codes can be organic or conventional. Conventional PLU codes are four digits. For example, conventional bananas carry a '4011' PLU. Organic goods feature a '9' in front of the normal code. So, for example, organic bananas would have a PLU code that reads, '94011'.

The National Organic Program (NOP) does not regulate any PLU or UPC coding. However, for more help regarding codes you can check with your organic distributor or your accredited certifying agent.

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