This morning, more snow is falling, from low cloud; very high winds high up. Several resorts in the Chamonix valley are shut or only partly open. The weather forecast is that between 25 and 50 cms of snow will fall today at 1500m, that is between 1 and 2 feet for those still dealing in Imperial units. There is already about 15cm (6 inches) in the car park as I look out the window at 10am. So no skiing report from me today, but I thought I might enlighten anyone interested concerning fruit labels, and own up to a previous obsession.
The confession relates to those irritating sticky plastic labels found on supermarket apples, oranges and some other fruit; tiny labels that are often difficult to remove and have messages like “Red Grapefruit #4288”. Well, a few years ago I started to wonder what they were all about. What did the # number mean, was it consistent between supermarkets and countries etc? So, and this is the confession part, I started collecting them. At first this was completely subversive. I did not tell anyone what I was doing, for fear of being identified as a nerd or anorak. In the later stages, I became more obsessional and surreptitiously removed labels from fruit in supermarkets, without any intention to purchase, if I saw one that was not in my collection.
A rather poor photo of the some of the collection illustrates my old obsession and I find it quite cathartic to publish it
By the process of analysing the collection, I soon established that while the labels might have different associated information from one supermarket to another and from one country to another, the # numbers were consistently applied. Also there were many types of fruit involved: red peppers, melon, avocado, lemon, aubergine etc. And the numbers were species specific: Idared apples are #4142, Cox are #4105 and Royal Gala are #4173 or sometimes #94173. Is there a secret conspiracy afoot?
Well, no as it happens, (conspiracy theorists wrong again). This is an international agreement and the numbers are known as PLU codes standing for Product Look Up (I think that name a bit mundane but still). The PLU codes are assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) http://www.ifpsglobal.com/Home.aspx There are 4-digit numbers for each fruit species, though sometimes a fifth number is added, as in the Royal Gala example above. A 9 denotes “organic” and if the fifth number were an 8, the fruit will be “genetically modified”. (I have never seen one of these). There is a 25-page – yes 25 pages! – list of codes available as a download on the IFPS website, if anyone is remotely interested.
Having sorted out what these numbers are all about, I have stopped my collection; store detectives please note.