A barcode is seen on a package at Russian e-commerce giant Wildberries in Moscow on March 24, 2021. (AFP / Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Social media posts share misleading claim that barcode prefixes can show if a product is made in Israel

Copyright AFP 2017-2021. All rights reserved.

A claim that barcodes with prefixes 729 and 871 mean that a product is made in Israel has been shared in multiple posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. The claim is misleading. While the barcode with the prefix 729 does refer to Israel, it does not denote where products are manufactured or made. 

The claim was published on May 17, 2021, on Facebook here, where it has been shared more than 34,000 times.

The claim is accompanied by a manipulated picture of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with an an overlaid text in red stating “product BOYCOTT mandatory” and two separate barcodes with the first three numbers circled, namely 729 and 871.

Underneath the barcodes, text on the image says: “729 = MADE IN ISRAEL” and “871 = MADE IN ISRAEL”.

The post’s Malaysian-language caption states: “BOYCOTT DON’T BE SEASONAL!!! #TearIsrael”.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post taken on May 21, 2021

The claim has also been shared on Facebook here, here and here; Instagram here; Twitter here; and TikTok here

The claim has also circulated in other languages, such as English, French, Swedish, Turkish and Arabic

The claim and the call to boycott Israel was posted as the Israeli-Hamas conflict escalated in May 2021, AFP reported here.

The claim is misleading.

A Google keyword search found this link from GS1, a non-profit organization that issues company prefixes for barcodes. 

According to the page, the prefix GS1 number for Israeli companies is 729.

However, the same page also states that “company prefixes are based on the GS1 prefixes below. Note that since GS1 member companies can manufacture products anywhere in the world, GS1 prefixes do not identify the country of origin for a given product.” 

The query was also addressed in the website’s FAQ section: “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.”

Below is a screenshot of the GS1 website:

Screenshot of the GS1 website

AFP received confirmation through an email on May 20, 2021, from the GS1 customer service department, which says: “It is confirmed all GS1 barcodes with 729 as the company prefix are issued by GS1 Israel.”

According to the GS1 list, 871 is one of the prefixes issued by GS1 Netherlands.

The origins of products — from companies that are members of GS1 — can be checked through a database called Global Electronic Party Information Registry (GEPIR).

AFP has published this report debunking a similar misleading claim that certain barcode prefixes can tell customers that a product is made in China. 

Photo of Netanyahu

The photo of Netanyahu used in the misleading post was edited from this picture of Netanyahu meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Tel Aviv in 2018, published in the Flickr account of the US Department of State. 

Below is a screenshot of the genuine photo on the US Department of State’s Flickr account:

Screenshot of the genuine photo on the US Department of State’s Flickr account
Israeli-Palestinian conflict