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Fact Check: Can a Barcode identify a Made in China products?

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It is true that prefix numbers from 690 to 699 are from China, but this does not mean that the product is made in China. The prefix does not indicate where the product is manufactured.

In the backdrop of recent clashes between India and China on June 14  in the Galvan Valley of Ladakh, there is outrage across the country and people are boycotting the goods made in China. Meanwhile, a message is being shared on social media, claiming that barcodes on the goods can be used to identify ‘Made in China’ products.

According to this message, if the barcode of an item starts from 690 to 699, those products are made in China and if a barcode starts with 890 then it is the country code of India".

A Twitter user Narendra Kumar tweeted a picture using the caption "How to differentiate between Chinese and Indian products. Barcode starting with number 690 to 699 is country code of China. Barcode starting with number 890 is country code of India. Be Indian buy Indian."

A Facebook user Bharat ki Shaan Hain Betiyan also shared the same picture.

The viral post received 182 likes and 164 shares at the time of writing this article.

Fact Check

In our investigation, we found that the viral claim is misleading. The first three digits of the barcode number do not indicate the country where the product is manufactured but it shows where the manufacturing company is located.

What is Barcode?

A product has a strip of black and white lines which is called barcode. Barcodes are a way of writing statistics or information about a product. The Barcodes are a method of presenting product data in a visual form that can be read by a machine. Usually, the product number is also written just below it. This unique number is called the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), which identifies a product. The institution named GS1 issues this unique number. GS1 is a non-profit organization that assigns unique numbers in barcodes.

What Barcode prefixes Identifies?

According to the GS1 website, The GS1 Prefix does not show the country of origin. An EAN-13 barcode number always starts with the GS1 Prefix of the GS1 Member Organisation that allocated the barcode number. The GS1 Prefix does not indicate that the product was manufactured in a specific country or by a specific manufacturer; it may have been produced anywhere in the world. 

It is true that GS1 prefix numbers have been given to China from 690 to 699 and '890' to India, but these numbers do not mean that these products are made in these countries. GS1 allocates prefixes to companies based on country code. You can see these numbers here.

In conclusion, we found that the first three digits of the barcode number do not indicate the country where the product is manufactured but it shows where the manufacturing company is located. It is true that prefix numbers from 690 to 699 are from China, but this does not mean that the product is made there. The prefix does not indicate where the product is manufactured.

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