The Number 50. The answer to life the universe and everything?

Barcodes have many uses, however, did you know that if your barcode begins with the number  50 that it is supposed to mean that the product that you are holding in your hand was manufactured in the UK? No – well, neither did we until recently.

125224420950mm-x-25mm-barcode-labelsI suspect that you might now be waving your hands in the air, whooping and giving communal high fives to strangers at this very interesting news… no? Then perhaps you were not as excited as we were to find this out.

However, this is still not an accurate distinguisher of British origin as it also covers the broader remit of ‘packed in the UK’.  As we have discussed before, this just is not cricket as far as we are concerned.

For example – We have had reports of ham both cured and packed in the UK but using EU meat. For the purposes of what we are doing that is not British enough for us, and what with the recent horse meat scandal we suspect that we are all a bit more concerned about the origin of our meat products at the moment.

Ultimately, ‘Packed in the UK’ does not support British manufacture and so for us the 50 barcode rule only serves to further confuse an already difficult labelling issue.

For more information on barcodes or as an antidote to too much Red Bull (or the British equivalent) follow this link:


  1. Very interesting. Regarding the meat, I’m sure someone has already said this, but buying from the local butcher is much more reliably British, I’m sure. I have switched to butcher’s meat and I am astounded at how cheap it is! We are saving a fortune and the meat is nicer too! Good luck in your year – I am really enjoying reading all about it.

  2. Elizabeth Baker says

    We heard recently heard from a friend recently whose brother is a beef farmer in Yorkshire. Because of the proximity, his cattle get sent over the border to Scotland for slaughter and as such can be marketed as Aberdeen Angus which, of course, commands a premium price. Were they slaughtered in Yorkshire the beef would not get this label. This way he does get a better price for his beef and can pass that on into his rearing, so hooray for that at least. Whilst, thank goodness, the meat remains resolutely British it does serve to highlight one of the hidden processes, that can conceal the true origin of our meat, not to mention the unnecessary food miles and time in transit for the animals while they still live.

    I am able to buy from local butchers since we moved to Wiltshire, or more likely for me, from farm shops. These days it gets harder to find a proper butcher, we don’t have one in our little town (nor a baker – another beef of mine, forgive the pun) which used to be the home of Wiltshire ham for goodness sake! We do, however, have 3 supermarkets. In the nearby slightly larger towns most of the butchers are able to tell you the actual farm their meat has come from and from that I have been able to find my favourite meat farm shops (of course each one will specialise in one type of meat) which are mostly closer to home than any of the butchers, and I have details of when and which weekly markets each one visits. Not everyone has the time that I now do to get all this information together.

    We used to live in London, and we were lucky to have a very good butcher at the top of the road. But, in London it’s going to be harder to find local meat or a farm shop, though both do exist. You have to seek out your farm shops though, even here where they are easier to find, as some shall we say “know how to charge” and can seem to put image first. When we lived in London both of us were working full time (often lots of extra hours too) and running round after the children’s school and social needs and had barely enough time to keep the house acceptable let alone think of shopping in all sorts of different places for different commodities.

    I heartily commend your efforts in trying to do all this whilst bringing up a small child. I really felt for you the other day when I saw your post about shopping for toys. And having found what you need, I thank you for your willingness to take time to share.

    • Elizabeth, I assume your friend’s brother’s cows are Aberdeen Angus bred in the first place? There’s quite strict labelling rules around that.

  3. Just when you think you have an easy answer!

  4. Clare Ellis says

    I was wondering about buying from local butchers and veg shops as presumably they buy from wholesalers but where do the wholesalers buy from…? I asked at my local farm shop about their veg and they buy that from a wholesaler so not sure I am any better informed that buying from a supermarket. On the upside, I have discovered that coop chicken is relativley ethical and definitely local which is another step in the right direction. Loving the blog 🙂

  5. Going back to the first paragraph, the first 2 digits of the bar code do not mean the country of origin of the product, but relate to the company who are providing the product. You are correct to say that 50 is the UK, but if you look in our largest supermarket chain you will find all their own label products begin with 50 wherever they are produced. Another example is Coca-Cola which certainly used to have a bar code starting 54 (i.e. Belgium/Luxembourg, I think) but I doubt it is all made in Belgium

  6. Lizzie Baker says

    Yes Amanda, they are, but apparently he wouldn’t get the same premium if they are slaughtered outside Scotland.

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