Newark, De – Produce Marketing Association (PMA) BB #:153708 has announced a breadth of efforts to advance innovation and industry involvement with regulators on PLU stickers.
This follows the decision for many countries across Europe to pass regulations that ban non-home compostable PLU stickers, the only effective way to enable retailers to provide bulk produce to consumers.
In 1988, PMA initiated a volunteer committee to develop solutions to ensure the accuracy in the price consumers are charged for fresh fruits and vegetables sold in bulk, or loose, at retail. The solution became the IFPS PLU codes that we see today. These codes are administered and governed by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) and feature a 4-5 digit code printed on a sticker that is then affixed to the fruit or vegetable.
While these stickers are food grade, the majority in use today do not meet the standards for being considered “home compostable”, which is being used in many areas, especially Europe, to meet new environmental regulations. A universally applicable “Home Compostable” PLU sticker does not exist yet.
“The PLU sticker is an essential solution to a complex challenge facing retailers, allowing their consumers to clearly understand pricing while also having the flexibility to buy only the amount they want” explained PMA VP of Supply Chain and Sustainability, Ed Treacy. “The alternative to PLU stickers is to package all produce, leading to an increase in plastics and packaging material and limiting choices for consumers or a reduction in premium varieties offered for sale, including organics.”
PMA has been working alongside USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to support them in outreach to regulators in countries like Spain and France. The association has submitted public comments to France and recently submitted public comments to the Spanish government on the proposed rule on reducing plastic waste which eliminates the use of PLU stickers.
“It is important for us to reduce the need for single use packaging, and we appreciate the steps many regulators are taking to put sustainability front and center in their solutions,” said PMA Chief Science Officer, Dr. Max Teplitski. “However, the use of PLU stickers relate to optimizing operational efficiency and consumer choice which helps us fight food waste. In order to ensure we’re not simply trading one problem for another, we believe any solution requires investment in innovations informed by those in the industry. We profoundly appreciate USDA FAS making exactly that kind of investment.”
The USDA FAS made research funding available under the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program to assist in the development of a home compostable PLU sticker. The program funds projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary, and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops.
PMA made their label service provider members aware of the funding available and PMA member, Sinclair International, with USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) were successful in obtaining a research grant from USDA FAS to develop a home compostable PLU sticker.
PMA was also asked by USAD ARS to assist in communications efforts to educate on the importance of produce packaging and PLU stickers as it relates to export requirements. PMA’s Ed Treacy will serve in that role during the November 17-18 2021 Annual Workshop for the United States Agricultural Export Development Council (US AEDC) where he will provide industry context in a breakout on single use plastics ban in France and beyond.
“PMA is grateful for the invitation to participate on behalf of the industry,” said Teplitski. “We will continue to educate consumers, thought leaders and influencers on the importance of PLU stickers in fighting food loss, reducing single use packaging waste and promoting the consumption of fresh produce.”
About Produce Marketing Association
Produce Marketing Association (PMA) is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit www.pma.com.