The stickers that appear on almost all fruits contain codes for the check-out clerk, but they also contain information that you should know. The numbers on the stickers can tell you how the fruit was grown, and frequently, the country of origin of the fruit. This is helpful to know when you are trying to select organic and non-GMO produce or to avoid fruits grown in countries where the pesticide regulations are somewhat “relaxed.”
What to Look For
A four-digit number means the fruit is conventionally grown. For example, a conventionally farmed peach may have the number 4044 on the sticker.
A five digit number beginning with 9 means the fruit has been organically grown. If your peach has the number 94044 – you know it is organic.
A new laser technology that tattoos fruit with identifying information may soon take the place of the little stickers. The stickerless technology was designed to track and trace food and allow for greater protection of the food supply during distribution.
The process involves the laser removing only the outer pigment of the skin of the fruit, to reveal a contrasting layer underneath and make the tattoo visible to the consumer and scannable at the check-out counter. Produce distributors are beginning to use this technology, but no one knows when it will be widely used throughout the industry.