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Debunking the myth: Can you REALLY tell which country your food is coming from based on the first two numbers of the barcode?

Date: April 08, 2016

Category: Industry news


Every few years we see emails, media reports and social media posts about GS1 barcodes and how they indicate where your food comes from. But it’s all an urban myth.

The urban myth that the first two digits of a GS1 barcode on the back of processed food products indicate the country of origin of a product is still circulating around news circles and now social media – years since it first emerged.

However, the GS1 barcode actually just uniquely identifies a product using a number called a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) – and not its country of origin.

The myth originated because the first two or three digits of the GTIN do indicate where the number was issued. For example, GS1 UK issues numbers that begin with 50. And GS1 Australia issues numbers beginning with 93. Every country that uses the global GS1 system has its own range of numbers. You can see the full list here.

But just because the number was issued in the UK doesn’t mean the food was manufactured or sourced in the UK. There is no way of knowing this from the GTIN or barcode. Of course, this information will be available elsewhere on the product label, and consumers should always look at this information, not try and decode the barcode number and jump to the wrong conclusion.

We’re sure this myth will continue to pop up every year or so. We’ll do our best to debunk it. In fact, just like the Daily Mail has recently done in one of its articles.