Do the Barcodes on Products Reveal the Country of Origin?
Last updated on November 18, 2008
There’s an e-mail alert circulating on the Internet that claims you can tell a food product’s country of origin by looking at the first three numbers of the bar code. For example, the alert says that all barcodes ranging from 690 to 695 indicate products made in China and that barcodes beginning with 471 indicate products made in Taiwan.
Given the concern over food made in China these days, this e-mail is quickly making its rounds on the Internet, so I decided to check it out. Unfortunately, it turns out that finding out a food product’s country of origin is not as simple as the e-mail alert claims.
According to Snopes, the first three digits of the barcode merely indicate in which country the barcode was assigned, not in which country the product was produced.
So, for example, a company that is based in Switzerland but has a manufacturing plant in China would have a Swiss barcode.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure out where our food comes from, as Sara Bongiorni, author of “A Year Without Made in China,” found out when she tried to eliminate all Chinese products from her family’s shopping list for one year. A CNN article about her experiment states:
The United States requires labels on seafood to mark where it came from. However, that’s the exception. With most foods, companies are not required to label where ingredients come from, only where the food was packaged or processed.
That means it is possible a frozen dinner, for example, could have 20 different ingredients from 20 different countries, food analysts say.
So how about you? Are you trying to avoid food from China or is it so difficult to do so that you don’t even try?