I am not sure I can be entertaining while talking about bar codes, those black lines and numbers affixed to anything we buy and that we rarely pay attention to. And why should we? It turns out that for the confused food shopper, they might be very helpful.
My brief stint in a bookstore taught me that glancing at a barcode, without actually holding a book, could provide me with useful information such as if a title was a hardback, a paperback or a mass market. The same applies to produce, albeit with a different range.
Recently there has been much debate about genetically modified foods – the FDA has deemed them safe and furthermore decided that we, as consumers, didn’t have the right to be informed if we were buying, say, corn flakes made with genetically modified corn or a combination of. In Europe, anything genetically modified is somewhat clearly stated on the label. But fruit and vegetables are harder to tell apart. Unless you familiarize yourself with barcodes.
If a fruit or vegetable is not itself labelled, the bin where you pick it up from will be. Most of your run of the mill produce (ie anything non organic and grown with the use of pesticides) will have a barcode with the first digit always a number between 1 and 7.
Organic produce’s barcode always starts with a 9 (or 09) and genetically modified with a 8 (or 08). These classifications are the product of international negotiations and apply to most of the industrialized world.
Not too hard to remember, even for a ding bat like me.
I am not advocating genetically modified food is bad for us – I am certainly in no position to judge but neither is science. Should there be long-term consequences, we will not know for a long time to come. In the meantime, I just want to be able to make an informed choice.