Do you remember your PLUs?

About a year ago I ran a post about PLUs.  These are the numbers listed on the little stickers of the produce we purchase.  Did you remember that PLUs (“Product {or Price} Look-Up” labels) actually mean something?… they aren’t just random numbers.

I have them in long-term memory but I was reminded about them during my recent grocery store trip when I realized (while standing in line, of course!) that I had forgotten to purchase tomatoes.  I asked my 10-year old to run back to the produce section and bring back three tomatoes.  I did, however, forget to be specific… ugh-oh.  Well, lo and behold, she returned with three lovely tomatoes and said “Don’t worry… they’re 9 Mom!”  Yes, she remembered!

So, it’s a good time for a reminder:  the important number is actually the first digit and they can tell you a whole lot about the produce you purchase.  It tells you exactly how it was grown.

Here are the digits you need to remember (with an update from my past post) :

  • 3 or 4 – indicates conventionally grown produce (grown with pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers)
  • 8 – originally I had indicated that this identifies genetically-modified (GMO) or genetically-engineered (GE) produce but more evidence is showing that this may not be so and there is no true designation for GMO.
  • 9 – indicates that the produce is ORGANIC

The next time you pick up a piece of produce: (1) look at the first digit of the PLU label, (2) remember these numbers, (3) know what you’re buying and then (4) rest assured that they’ll tell you more about the food you’re buying for (and serving to) your family.  And, even when you don’t expect it, your kids may catch on too!

Even MORE labeling terms you should know about!

organic slYes, friends… once again I’m working on understanding labels and knowing exactly what they mean (or in many cases, DON’T mean!).

I’ve talked about pesticide-free & chlorine-free, non-toxic labeling, fragrance-free vs. unscented, PLU produce labels and certified-organic vs. organic ingredients.

Now I have a few more that you should know about:  “Green”, “Renewable” and “Certified Organic”.  (Have a guess about which ones actually mean something?)

Well, it appears that “Certified Organic” is the only trustworthy label in this group.  Certified Organic is stgrn labelrictly defined and regulated by the USDA.  “Green” and “Renewable”, on the other hand, mean NOTHING! They are undefined and, once again, completely unregulated.

Like some of the other terms I mentioned, any manufacturer can place these words on their label to give you peace of mind about what you’re purchasing.  And ONCE AGAIN they can do it, just because the terms aren’t regulated.  That doesn’t mean that ALL products that use these terms aren’t legitimate, but the problems is that it’s sometimes difficult to really know.

renwable labelThere’s so much greenwashing happening… the best thing to do is to only select products that have legitimate, regulated terms associated with them.  Otherwise, like that box of chocolates, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’!

So, it’s time again to break out that notepad, just to keep it straight since, sadly, we can’t always believe what the labels are attempting to tell us.

Do you really know what you’re eating?

GMO strawbSo, I’ve reviewed and given away some fantastic eco-products over the past weeks.  Congrats to the winners – I hope you’re enjoying your prizes! – and don’t forget that a few of the giveaways are still open for entries!

Now I need to move on to something that has always been high on my list of concerns… the foods I feed my family.  It’s been no secret that I favor organic foods (and I’m an avid supporter of CSAs).  I also try to steer clear of anything processed and shop the perimeter of grocery stores where fresh foods are often found. But, more and more, genetically altered foods are finding their way into our daily “eats”!GMO no

One of my previous posts talked about all of my biggest concerns with these foods but, for a simple explanation: genetic modification is a process of recombining DNA in food sources to introduce new characteristics or desirable traits. Ugh. Changing DNA?!?  There is also no long-term and/or conclusive research about the consumption of these “altered” foods and the effects on the people consuming them… doesn’t that just make your stomach swirl… yea, in a big way!

Would it bother you more if I told you that, currently, these genetically engineered foods have no labels identifying them as GMO.  The FDA simply has no requirements.

GMO tomEnvironmental Working Group (EWG) and the Just Label It campaign has a petition to the FDA demanding that genetically engineered foods are labeled… if you’re so compelled, sign it and tell them you want to know what you’re eating!

A dear friend of mine taught me that “silence is compliance”… when it comes to my family’s food, I don’t want to be silent! Sign with me?

MORE unregulated terms you should know about!

pest freeSo, I’m at it again… looking at labels and learning… a lot!

I’ve talked about the non-toxic labeling, fragrance-free vs. unscented, PLU produce labels and certified-organic vs. organic ingredients.

Now I have two more that you do need to know about:  “Pesticide-Free” and “Chlorine-Free”.

Maybe you’ll be surprised and maybe you won’t, but the reality is… NEITHER of these labels or terms mean a thing either.  They are undefined and, once again, completely unregulated.chlor free2

Like some of the other terms I mentioned, any manufacturer can place these words on their label to give you peace of mind about what you’re purchasing.  And ONCE AGAIN they can do it, just because the terms aren’t regulated.  That doesn’t mean that ALL products that use these terms aren’t legitimate, but the problems is it’s sometimes difficult to really know.

I can add a good note though… it just so happens that the term “Dolphin Safe” IS strictly defined, so when you see this terdolph safem, you can rest assured about your purchase!  As a life-long dolphin lover, I’m happy that this actually means something positive.

We have quite a list going, don’t we??? Maybe it’s time to break out a notepad, just to keep it straight since, sadly, we can’t always believe what the labels are attempting to tell us.

Do you know what the “non-toxic” label means?

toxc nonI’ve been on a “label kick” lately, trying to discover some of the lesser known facts about what it all means.

I’ve talked about fragrance-free vs. unscented, PLU produce labels and certified-organic vs. organic ingredients.

Well now, how about “non-toxic”?  Do you know what the label means? Let me tell you…

… it means NOTHING. The reality is that the non-toxic labeling is NOT regulated by the FDA, so it literally means nothing.

From commercial cleaners to cosmetics, when it says it’s non-toxic it doesn’t say anything beneficial about the product.  Any manufacturer can place this on their label to give you peace of mind about what you’re purchasing.  And sadly they can do it, just because the term isn’t regulated.toxc

I, myself, have been misled when I thought that I was buying something safe.  In fact, I even bought a tube of non-toxic face paint for my son’s Halloween costume (so I could draw on a scraggly pirate beard!) but when it came down to it, I sacrificed my expensive eyeliner instead, simply because I knew it was safe.

Sure, there are quality products that will have this term on the label, but the next time you see “non-toxic”, don’t make assumptions about what’s NOT in the product because you could be getting more than you bargained for (and more than these words are telling you).