10 little known facts about fruit stickers

10 Little Known Facts About Fruit Stickers
10 Little Known Facts About Fruit Stickers

Even though nearly every piece of fruit in the produce aisle has a little sticker on it, most people probably never give them much thought.

Well, here's a chance to make up for lost time. Following are 10 little known facts about the ubiquitous labels.

Number 10. They're edible. If you've finished baking a whole apple pie only to realize you forgot to take the stickers off of the fruit, fear not. The labels are perfectly edible. As with the apples, though, washing them prior to eating is advised.

Number 9. The glue is regulated by the FDA. Adhesives used on foods are covered under a regulatory subsection called "Indirect Food Additives: Adhesives and Components of Coatings." It outlines with great detail what can be used and how.

Number 8. Their numbers have a deeper meaning - so the cashier won't mistake your rare Hawaiian Mountain Apple for a plain old red pear. 5-digit codes starting with a 9 are reserved for organics and the ones beginning with 8's are GMOs. 4-digit identifiers are given to fruits that are conventionally grown.

Number 7. Once assigned, the codes are fixed. That means no matter where you go, the numbers on any specific fruit will be the same. For example, whether you buy a 4030 in Portland, Maine or Portland, Oregon, you're ending up with standard-sized kiwi.

Number 6. There's a high-tech alternative. A while back, a Florida man created a laser that can add the necessary PLU info to fruit by zapping the pigment out of its top layer. Thus far, it's only been approved for use on citrus fruits.

Number 5. Lots of them have been handed out. There are over 1400 unique PLUs out there just for produce and produce-related items.

Number 4. Artists use them as a medium. Among them is Barry Snyder of Colorado, who arranges various colored stickers into mosaics of pop culture icons. Early in his career he got them, and the fruit they were attached to, at the grocery store. Now, he receives boxes full from collectors all over the world.

Number 3. Codes are assigned by the IFPS. That's the International Federation of Produce standards. Before issuing one, detailed reviews are conducted both nationally and internationally.

Number 2. They're not all utilitarian. In China, farmers affix specially shaped stickers to young apples and take them off once the fruit has grown. What remains is a message or lucky symbol. The fruits, known as Rolls-Royce apples, can fetch about a hundred dollars apiece.

Number 1. Multi-tasking stickers are in the works. A New York inventor is working on making a fruit label that dissolves in water and turns into a fruit wash. That means clean produce and trouble-free sticker removal all in one.

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