State of California California Department of Consumer Affairs

Universal Product Code

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The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology (i.e., a specific type of barcode), that is widely used in the United States and Canada for tracking trade items in stores. The UPC is a series of parallel light and dark bars of different widths which appear on products for pricing purposes. The numbers printed below the machine readable symbol, allow for human reading of the code number. The symbol prevents tampering, and even poor printing should not result in the scanning devices reading a wrong number. When the products are passed over a window on the counter, the electronic scanner under the window reads the bar code symbol which identifies the manufacturer, the product, and price. The code symbol is also readable by hand-held reading devices.

Once UPC product identification numbers are assigned, their use extends beyond bar coding and scanning. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards have been established in the grocery band retail industries as a common set of formats for computer to computer transmission of orders, invoices, and other routine information between trading partners. The UPC replaces mail, telephone, and other communication processes.

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