Everything you need to know about PLU labels

Date1 February 2021


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What Is a PLU Food Label?


What exactly is a PLU label? Why is it useful? What do the numbers on the label mean? What are they made of? This article answers these questions and more.


What Is a PLU Label?


PLU (Price Look Up) codes are a numerical system that identify a specific fruit or vegetable. These codes have been used since 1990 and are administered by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS).


Why Are PLU Labels Useful?

PLU codes found on fruits and vegetables allow you to:

  • identify the product,
  • control inventory,
  • and make scanning and pricing at checkout easier.

These codes are universal and thus no matter where you find them, worldwide, individual fruits and vegetables will always be labelled with the same code.


What Do the Numbers On the Label Mean?

Do the numbers found on PLU labels have a specific meaning or significance? Yes and no.

  • Codes consisting of four digits are used for produce that is cultivated in conventional ways.
  • Codes consisting of five digits, starting with a 9, are used for produce that is organically cultivated.
  • Codes consisting of five digits, starting with an 8, are reserved for produce cultivated with GMOs. However, these codes were never used in retail sales. Rather, they are reattributed to allow a greater number of codes for use with conventionally cultivated produce.

In other words, only the codes with five digits, starting with a 9 have a particular significance.


What Materials are PLU Labels Made From?


PLU code labels are composed of vinyl or paper. The glue used as an adhesive is edible and FDA certified, in case of accidental ingestion. Further, the glue used should not leave a residue on the produce.

The application process should be delicate so as not to damage the produce, however, the label should adhere well to ensure it stays in place during transit and handling.


Are PLU Labels Mandatory in Canada?


There are no regulations in Canada that require the use of PLU labels. It is a voluntary system, however, most medium to large stores use it for maximum efficiency.

In Canada, since 2006, a list of national PLU codes was created to compile a complete list, along with those from the IFPS. These codes, made for Canadian retailers, help identify products which do not have enough volume to warrant the assignment of an IFPS PLU.


Does Quebec Require PLU Labels?


As with the rest of Canada, PLU labels are a voluntary system for retailers. It’s important to note that all product destined for the Quebec market require non-exempt information to be labeled in both English and French.

According to the charter of Quebec French Language, only the following are exempt from translation:

  • The corporate name of a business established exclusively outside of Quebec.
  • The record of origin or denomination of an exotic product, a foreign specialty, or a heraldic or non-commercial logo.
  • A marker that designates an origin outside of Quebec, in another language that is officially recognized by the Commission de toponymie du Québec, surname, given name or character name, and all names distinctive of its cultural character.
  • A brand recognized by the Trademarks Act, unless a French version is available.

Create Your PLU Code


In addition to using PLU code labels to identify products, they also can be used as a marketing tool and to supply the customer with additional information.

For more information on the subject, consult the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA).

Here at Multi-Action, our team has everything you need to bring your projects to fruition, from conception to production of your PLU labels. We can print them for you or we can provide you with the necessary equipment needed to print and apply your labels in-house. Contact us for the perfect solution

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