Barcodes don’t tell you where a product was made

15 November 2023
What was claimed

Israel has changed its barcode numbers from starting with 729 to 871.

Our verdict

Barcodes that originated in Israel may have numbers beginning 729. This doesn’t mean those products were manufactured there. Not all barcodes for products or companies based in Israel will have this code. The code 871 originated in the Netherlands.

A post on X (formerly Twitter) with over 2,700 shares says: “Israel just now changed its barcode from 729 to 871. The barcode changed due to the public’s boycott of Israeli products.”

Other posts, including on Facebook and TikTok, have also made similar claims.

A barcode number beginning with 729 indicates the barcode number was allocated in Israel but not necessarily manufactured there. Full Fact could find several examples of products from companies originating in Israel that do not start with those numbers. 871 is part of a range of barcode numbers allocated to products of companies in the Netherlands.

Neither of these numbers being at the front of barcodes guarantees the company that made them is based in these countries.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

According to GS1, the non-profit organisation which assigns barcodes worldwide, a barcode number “always starts with the GS1 Prefix of the GS1 Member Organisation that allocated the barcode number”.

They go on to say: “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.”

According to their website, the number 729 at the start of a barcode indicates that the barcode was allocated by the Israeli branch of GS1. But as GS1 says, that doesn’t mean the product was made or manufactured there.

Full Fact found one example of a company in Israel selling barcodes for products whose barcodes started with 07. The company says on its website (translated from Hebrew by Google): “Barcode numbers do not say anything about the country of origin of the product or the company. The first digits of a barcode number only show the country of origin of the barcode number. Our numbers start with 07, which shows that the number comes from the USA.” 

Several products listed on their website as using their barcodes start with 07, which as the company has said would indicate the barcode was allocated in the USA, but the products list their country of origin as Israel and are manufactured in a range of countries.

Barcode1 UK, a firm selling barcodes which is part of the same New Zealand-based network of barcode companies as the Israeli company above, says: “Many people mistakenly believe that the first few digits of the barcode numbers show the country of origin of the product. 

“However, the barcode number says NOTHING accurate about the country of origin of the product. The only thing that these first few digits show is the country of origin of the barcode number itself. So, in reality, products that come from any specific country can have any barcode number on them.”

Another company selling barcodes in the UK, Get A Barcode Limited, says its codes were “originally issued to a US company”. 

Israel has not changed its barcode number prefix to 871

According to GS1’s website, the barcode number prefixes between 870 and 879 have been allocated by GS1 in the Netherlands, not Israel.

This claim, that Israel’s code has been changed from 729 to 871, has been spreading since at least 2021.

One post we’ve seen also implies that 841 is a code for Israel. According to GS1’s website, 840 to 849 codes indicate the number was registered in Spain.

Image courtesy of Jack Lee

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.