How to Read Country of Origin on Food Bar Codes

Written by jon stefansson
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How to Read Country of Origin on Food Bar Codes
This can's bar code was issued in Italy. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The ubiquitous bar code often goes unnoticed on food packaging, yet it provides interesting information if you take a closer look. The first two, sometimes three, digits beneath the bar code describe where the code was issued, providing insight into the origin of your food. Although the country of issue doesn't always match the food's country of origin, checking your bar codes against a list of food-producing countries sometimes turns up interesting results. People tracking "food miles," the distance food travels before it winds up on your plate, might find bar code "country of origin" codes interesting.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Take a range of bar-coded items from your kitchen: canned food, fresh fruit and drink bottles are all ideal. Any food with a bar-code label works.

  2. 2

    Take note of the numeric code beneath the black bar code stripes. The first two or three digits is the "country of issue" code.

  3. 3

    Match the digits to a list of bar code country codes (see Resources.) The first number sometimes appears to the left of the bar code. For example, "810" are the relevant digits in the image shown above.

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