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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?

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10 Comments on "Do the Barcodes on Products Reveal the Country of Origin?"

3 years 8 months ago

I want to know where products come from,Period! Then I have the right to choose. If they keep finding problems with products made in China: children’s toys ,apple juice, and probably so much more. then that’s my right.
When we are serving apple juice ( made In China and find out that it’s hazardous to children). Why do we not put a stop to it immediately? Our children being poisoned by China doesn’t bother some people, I can pretty much guarentee that those folks don’t have children. Whats wrong with our apples?
How can china do it so much cheaper than us? because they are using their own people@ a wage so cheep that we couldn’t compete in the market place. They abuse their people, why would they give a darn about ours.
I am soo tired about certain liberals who defend the wrong that other countries do. We have standards for our country, that other countries don’t have to adhere to. Is that OK for you well it’s not for me. Why is it Cheaper there? because they don’t have the same standards we do. If you are sending your product to China to be produced of course you don’t want us to know country of origion. There economy has improved,not ours.Our people have become greedy,and want to be rich. Buy and produce USA!!! Don’t shop walmart!

5 years 9 months ago

Reality is the UN or what ever unseen organization pushing this one world order are one step ahead of every one. They use forums like this for there intelligence.There aim is for one standard but YOU will have to rely on other 3rd world nation for your standard of living which you slowly but surely you have been accustomed to. So hang on and enjoy the down hill ride.

5 years 10 months ago

Alvie is right. I have 2 (just for starters) products that clearly state on the package Made in/Product of China with the so-called US/Canada digits. Looks like we’re back a square one again.

5 years 11 months ago

THis is not true about the UPC code. The country code states where the UPC code was generated and that comes from the US UPC Council. So example I have a company here in the US and I have a product being manufactured in China. I apply for the UPC code here in the US. The code shows that it was generated in the US but really the product is manufactured in China. You would never ever know. I know this becaused I have been involved in product development here in the US. Remember, it indicates the country that issued the code, NOT THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF THE PRODUCT

5 years 11 months ago


6 years 4 months ago

Get a life Max !………Go and have a look at the way things are made, and the living conditions of folk producing them…. Also the sanitation involved in their production……You COULD be amazed,,,,,,,,,,,,Are you happy to become one?

6 years 5 months ago

Why thomas? So you can discriminate against products from a country? So you can ruin the economy of a country based on what you hear on fox news?

What if countries stopped buying our US products because of the misconception that all we do, each and every single one of us is to fund war?

Misconceptions are powerful and crippling. Though you are right about the regulatory requirements.

What i’m trying to say is your message came across as one that would stop buying Chinese products over what you hear on fox, stop interacting with Mexicans because of swine flu. The examples go on.

It’s pretty much the same as the guy giving you an interview for a job asking you your race, history and where your parents were born. It is useful for quite a few things but in the situation it is seemed more damaging than useful.

6 years 8 months ago

It is the right of the consumer to know the origin of the product he/she going to buy. To protect the interest of the people there should some regulatory requirements but unfortunately nothing is in place. It is more unfortunate that many well known multinational companies like ‘Nestle’ doesn’t have such transparency in their portfolio. We hope something will come up to protect the interest of the consumer.


6 years 11 months ago

This is the list that was in the email that I received:

However, you may now refer to the barcode, remember if the first 3 digits is 690-695 then it is Made in China .

00 ~ 13 USA & CANADA
30 ~ 37 FRANCE
40 ~ 44 GERMANY
49 ~ JAPAN
50 ~ UK
57 ~ Denmark
64 ~ Finland
76 ~ Switzerland and Lienchtenstein
628 ~ Saudi-Arabien
629 ~ United Arab Emirates
740 ~ 745 – Central America

All 480 Codes are Made in the Philippines.

daniel soler
6 years 11 months ago

I know that due to the intricacy of the system my request might not be of any help; but nevertheless I would dearly love to get hold of the list of bar codes and their numbers that will tell me at least where the food product I’ll purchase is bottled or packaged. Can somebody help? please.
thank you