FACT CHECK; Nothing Patriotic regarding Bar Codes Readers Want to Know If the '0' Indicates Product Was Made in America

By Fader, Carole | The Florida Times Union, October 23, 2011 | Go to article overview

FACT CHECK; Nothing Patriotic regarding Bar Codes Readers Want to Know If the '0' Indicates Product Was Made in America


Fader, Carole, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

An email I received says it is important to read the bar codes on products to track where they were made. It lists the numbers for various countries and says that to buy American watch for "0" at the beginning of the number. Is this true?

Well, the email is misleading. There are such things as country codes, but they typically are not used on U.S. bar codes.

The Universal Product Codes, or UPCs, used in the U.S. have four parts, according to numerous articles on bar codes: the number system (the single digit to the left of the bars); the five-number manufacturer's code; the five-number product ID; and the check digit (the single digit to the right of the bars).

The number system refers to the type of product. The manufacturer's code is assigned to a manufacturer by an overseeing code council. The product number is specific to the item (such as a 16-oz. can of peas) and is assigned by someone working for the manufacturer. The check digit ensures that the scanner has read the code correctly.

The numbers don't stand for any country of origin.

Country codes are used, however, by the European Article Number (EAN-13), more commonly used in Europe and other countries outside the U.S.

The codes used in the chain email are real. For example, 000-019 is the United States, 460-469 is Russia, and 690-695 is China. …

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