Food Labels on Fresh Produce: What Do Those Numbers Mean?

"Sticker Talk," January/February 2013

How to read food labels on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ever wonder what the 4- to 5-digit codes on your produce really mean? According to Dan Vaché of the United Fresh Produce Association: “A 4-digit code means conventionally grown, while a 5-digit one starting with 9 means organic and a 5-digit code starting with 8 means genetically modified.” Really? GMO is labeled? “Well,” Vaché cautions, “there are almost no genetically modified fresh produce items on the market.” (“Fresh” being the key word. Papaya and sweet corn are the only fresh GMO available and at present labeling is voluntary.)

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