Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Exposing The UPC Barcode Myth:

by Glenn Littrell

updated 2-1-2015: see also Decoding your produce: 

re-posted from 7-24-2010:image

Recently an article has surfaced in several locations stating that you can tell where an item was manufactured by examining the consumer UPC barcode on the package. This article is almost verbatim from a ‘spam’ email that has been circulated for some time now.

The ‘gist’ of the article/email is that by examining the barcode you can use the information to avoid purchasing items ‘Made In China’.

The problem with the article is the misplacing of the emphasis on China and the

fact that it is not true.

First, the misplaced emphasis: While I will agree that China is the worst offender and dominate entity in terms of the importation of goods and materials formally manufactured in the US they do not stand alone in the negative impact of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs. I wouldn’t even award them first place in the rush to move good paying manufacturing jobs out of the US. First place would go to Wal-Mart with China in second place or no better than a tie with Wal-Mart.
The emphasis should not be on don’t buy Chinese but rather it should be first and foremost on ‘Buy American’!
A big part of our
immigration problem is a direct result of the outsourcing of American jobs outside of our borders. So while China has a big chunk of the manufactured products that we import many countries with a smaller percentage of those products are contributing to our immigration problem because of their role in exploiting their own workforce to the extent that they seek sub-par wages in America because of insufficient wages and protection in their own country. First and foremost “BUY AMERICAN” and if you can’t then look for the lesser of two evils.

Second, the barcodes do not identify where products are manufactured. At one time this may have been true, or may have been an intent at some point, but it is not the case anymore. The urban myth/fact or fiction website Snopes exposes the myth as containing a mixture of true and false information. The TruthOrFiction website labels it as FALSE.
To verify these assertions I googled and visited several sites on the topic and found out several facts from those sites:

  • GS1 Barcode: GS1 Prefixes do not provide identification of country of origin for a given product. They simply provide number capacity to different countries for assignment from that location to companies who apply. Those companies in turn may manufacture products anywhere in the world.”
  • Simply Barcodes: “…Yes, we can supply barcodes to companies located outside of the USA. Our barcodes are valid worldwide.”
  • Barcode 1: “…Remember, it indicates the country that issued the code, NOT THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF THE PRODUCT. …The meaning of the prefixes ""020-029", "040-049" and "200-299" are set by the GS1 administration in a given country. GS1-US has defined these prefixes as for internal use in, for example, warehouses. The authoritative list is here.”
    also at Barcode 1:   ”Does the barcode number indicate the country of origin of a product?   No it doesn't. The 3-digit prefix code indicates which GS1 numbering organization has allocated the block of numbers to the company. Once the company has been assigned the block of numbers, they self assign each individual number in the block to a given product. For example, a company may have it's headquarters in South Africa. The GS1 organization in South Africa has the code "600", but all the products of the company may be manufactured in England. The English-made products would still have the "600" prefix code. The prefix code is a way to have 70-plus GS1 member organizations issuing numbers without having to worry about duplicate numbers. The 3-digit prefix indicates the country of the GS1 organization that issued the block of numbers, not the country of origin of the product. GS1 (the international organization that administers UPC and EAN) has a
    clear statement that the prefix DOES NOT indicate the country of origin of the product. A list of country codes can be found on the UPC & EAN Page.”
  • Wikipedia: EAN-13 barcodes also indicate the country in which the company that sells the product is based (which may or may not be the same as the country in which the good is manufactured). The leading digits of the code determine this, according to this code list. The EAN-13 encoding rules encode the leading 13th digit by modifying the encoding of the left-hand half of the barcode: the original rules for UPC are treated as a '0' if read as EAN-13. A UPC barcode XXXXXXXXXXXX therefore is the EAN-13 barcode 0XXXXXXXXXXXX.”

As you can see from these sites not only do the codes not represent the country of origin but because codes can be recycled and sold they can be used to disguise the country of origin. So ignore the codes and until we can get more accurate identification research your purchases and look for the Made In America labels. On this website and my other websites I have a “Buy American Resources” tab [at the top] or link that you can bookmark/favorite and reference.

Glenn Littrell


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