On your next grocery run, check the sticker on your produce to learn if the item has been organically grown, or treated with herbicides, fungicides or chemicals.

Here’s how to tell:


1. Find the sticker’s PLU number (price lookup number).

This is what you see the cashier typing into the register to pull up the price. It’s also where you’ll unlock the history of your produce.


2. A 4-digit PLU number means the produce was grown "traditionally".

But keep in mind that "traditionally grown" means the farmers used pesticides. For example, the PLU code "4011" is reserved for bananas traditionally grown…with pesticides.



3. Organic produce has a 5-digit PLU number starting with "9".

You’ll see "94011" on an organic banana that wasn’t genetically modified in any way. An organic PLU number has 5 digits and always start with 9.



Bonus #1: Skip organic if your produce is on the "Clean 15" list.

If you’re going to skip organic, do it on these 15 items. The Environmental Working Groups (EWG) came up with a list of 15 produce items that are generally "cleaner," meaning they need less chemical or human interference while growing.

Look for the 4-digit "traditionally" grown PLU on these items:

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Onion
  • Asparagus
  • Mangos
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Honeydew
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower


Bonus #2: Go organic when it comes to the "Dirty Dozen."

The EWG also came up with the "Dirty Dozen,” or their list of heavily tampered with produce. It includes items that are almost always genetically engineered, and/or doused in heavy chemicals during the growth process. (And have the least defense against it.)

So, if you’re willing to pay a little extra, head for the organic section and look for a 5-digit PLU number that starts with a "9" on these:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale + collard greens


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