Is it REALY Organic?
Yesterday, as I was browsing the produce aisle in my local Kroger, a sign advertising organic domestic beets caught my eye. Not having enjoyed roasted beets and beet greens since farmers market season, I felt my stomach rumble. As I was lifting a bunch to place in my shopping cart, a number on the twist tie caught my eye. It was a four-digit PLU code beginning with the number 4. Immediately, I put the bunch of beets back on the shelf.
What was the red flag with the PLU code? True organic produce is labeled with a five-digit PLU beginning with the number 9. This ensures that the produce is free of chemicals and — at least for the time being — genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The following list breaks everything down into a user-friendly format:
- five-digit starting with 9 = certified organic
- five-digit starting with 8 = genetically modified
- four-digit starting with 3 or 4 = conventionally-grown
One word of warning — producers are not using the proper GMO PLU, due to lack of truth-in-advertising laws regarding GMOs. This means that produce bearing a four-digit code should be considered suspect. (To make your voice heard in favor of truth-in-advertising, visit the Organic Consumers Association.)
My rule of thumb is “better safe than sorry.” Even if the sign says “organic,” always check the PLU code. If there is a discrepancy, file a complaint, either in person or via the grocery store’s website. You don’t need a law degree to know what false advertising looks like.
Addendum: On a related note, check out this informative post on Sustainablog regarding greenwashing.