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Product Barcode Country Identification

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Circulating message claims that consumers can identify what country a product was manufactured in by analyzing the first 3 digits of the product's barcode.

Product Bar Codes

Brief Analysis

The information in the message is misleading. While the first three digits of the product barcode may sometimes indicate where the product was manufactured, it will not always do so. The barcode prefix is not a reliable and constant method of determining a product's country of manufacture.



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Subject: Product Bar Coding

Product Bar Coding

The whole world is scared of China made 'black hearted goods'. Can you differentiate which one is made in the USA , Philippines , Taiwan or China ? For your Information ... the first 3 digits of the barcode is the country code wherein the product was made.

Sample: all barcodes that start with 690.691.692 until 695 are all MADE IN CHINA.
471 is Made in Taiwan

This bar code is 471 – Made in Taiwan

This is our human right to know, but the government and related department never educate the public, therefore we have to RESCUE ourselves.

Nowadays, Chinese businessmen know that consumers do not prefer products 'made in china', so they don't show from which country it is made.

However, you may now refer to the barcode, remember if the first 3 digits is 690-695 then it is Made in China .

00 ~ 13 USA & CANADA
30 ~ 37 FRANCE
40 ~ 44 GERMANY
49 ~ JAPAN
50 ~ UK
57 ~ Denmark
64 ~ Finland
76 ~ Switzerland and Lienchtenstein
471 ~ Taiwan
628 ~ Saudi-Arabien
629 ~ United Arab Emirates
690-695 ~ China
740 ~ 745 - Central America
All 480 Codes are Made in the Philippines.

Detailed Analysis

This email claims that consumers can find out which country a product was manufactured in by examining the product's barcode. According to the message, the first three digits of the product barcode identify where the product was made. It suggests that concerned consumers could thus easily identify products made in countries with a dubious reputation for contaminated or dangerous products such as China by matching the first three barcode digits to a country list included in the message.

However, the information in the message is quite misleading.

The first three digits of European Article Number (EAN) barcodes are known as the manufacturing code and they do indicate which EAN numbering authority allocated a particular set of numbers. Every country that uses the EAN system has its own numbering authority which is responsible for assigning manufacturer codes for companies within its jurisdiction. These codes are sometimes referred to as "country codes". Thus, at first take, the information in the message may seem valid.

However, in reality, this is not the case. An FAQ published on bar code information website Bar Code 1 explains:
Does the barcode number indicate the country of origin of a product?

No it doesn't. The 3-digit prefix code indicates which numbering organization has allocated the bank of numbers to the company. For example, a company may have it's headquarters in South Africa. The EAN 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 EAN member organizations issuing numbers without having to worry about duplicate numbers.
This information is confirmed on a barcode FAQ published on global standards organisation, GS1's website:
A GTIN starts with the GS1 Prefix of the GS1 Member Organisation that allocated a GS1 Company Prefix to a company to allow them to generate GTINs and bar code their products. This does not mean that the product was manufactured in a specific country or by a specific manufacturer, it may have been produced anywhere in the world.
Thus, while the first three digits of the product barcode may sometimes indicate where the product was manufactured, it will not always do so. For example, a barcode that has 690 as the first three digits indicates that the barcode was assigned by the Chinese EAN numbering authority. However, it does not necessarily mean that the product was actually manufactured in China.

Therefore, the advice given in this email is actually rather pointless. The information in the email would only be useful to consumers if the prefix invariably indicated where a product was manufactured. The fact that the barcode prefix is not a reliable and constant method of determining a product's country of manufacture means that, while the information in the email may be interesting, it is actually of little practical value.


Last updated: March 13, 2015
First published: November 18, 2008
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

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