organic produce


How can I tell if produce is organic at the grocery store? Some items are labeled as organic on their package, but others don’t have packaging with a label.




I love food without packaging, but you’re right, sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s organic. There is a simple trick that will make your quest for organic produce much easier.

When produce is loose, without packaging, such as apples, onions or bundles of herbs,  they should have a small sticker, twist tie or rubber band with a PLU (Price Look Up) code. If the code has four digits, it’s conventional. If it has five digits and starts with a 9, it is certified organic by a USDA-accredited agency.

For example, a conventional Gala Apple will be coded 4135, while an organic Gala Apple will be coded 94135.

USDA organic standards prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, artificial hormones, and synthetic food additives.

Naturally, I encourage you to seek out local, seasonal produce whenever possible. Farmers' market vendors may not be certified organic, but you can ask them questions that are important to you about how they grow the food they sell.

With all loose produce, please try to break the habit of always reaching for a plastic bag. One apple, two potatoes, or a bunch of bananas don’t need to be contained in a plastic bag! I get it – something like Brussels sprouts may need a little containing (unless you buy them on the stalk from the farmer’s market!). You might consider investing in a few reusable produce bags (or look on Etsy).

Piece out,



Renee Sweany is NUVO's green living advice blogger.

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