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Definition: EAN.UCC

The EAN.UCC System is a globally accepted technique of identifying products, serializing shipping containers and communicating other significant business transaction information such as purchase order numbers, expiration dates, lot numbers, etc. in a customary, machine readable format.

The EAN.UCC System has been used in the food industry for over 20 years but it is not restricted only to food items or only for retailers. The EAN.UCC System was at first conceived and urbanized by members of the industry of electrical products for the purpose of use between manufacturers and distributors. In US, over 95,000 manufacturers of the lot including industrial, universal merchandise, food and other products, are using this product numbering system.

The purpose of the EAN.UCC System is to improve communication between trading partners by establishing a specific but flexible technique of exclusively identifying products in both human readable and machine readable formats. To achieve this purpose, the EAN.UCC System defines some rules which are used universally:


- There are rules for conveying the Reference numbers to the individual items and in EAN.UCC terms it is called consumer units. A consumer unit is the least saleable unit of sale for a specific product.

Example: A single 14 oz. bottle of filter cleaner, a 1 liter bottle and a 3 liter bottle of the same filter cleaner are classified as three different consumer units and would each get a dissimilar Item Reference number.

- There are rules for conveying Item Reference numbers to the intermediate packs and the shipping containers of consumer units.

Cases containing four half liter bottles would be allocated an unlike 14 digit number than cases containing eight half liter bottles of the same product.

- There are rules for conveying unique serial numbers to packages and shipping containers, like the Package Identification Number (PIN) assigned by common carriers. This system is used in combination with Electronic Data Interchange to knot the container or pallet to a definite purchase order number.

- There are rules for communicating secondary information such as purchase order numbers, consignment numbers, assortment numbers, expiration numbers, and other types of data normally communicated between trading partners.

In addition to explaining a customary method of assigning Item Reference numbers, carton serial numbers and identifying secondary information, the EAN.UCC System also tells which symbologies are to be used for each different number. The table shown below describes the numbers to use for dissimilar variety of items and the symbologies that can be used.


Item Being Identified

Number Format

Information in the Bar Code


Consumer Unit

UCC-12 (12 digit U.P.C. #)

Trade Item Identification

UPC version A or E

Groupings of individual trade items above unit level (Intermediate, Carton or Pallet)


Trade Item Identification

ITF-14 or UCC/EAN-128 with an Application Identifier "01".

Transport (Logistic) Unit (Shipping Container)

18 digit Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC).

Serial number uniquely identifying a shipping container, pallet, etc.

UCC/EAN-128 with an Application Identifier of "00"


Length varies but the symbol includes Application Identifiers to designate the type of data in the bar code.

Secondary information such as purchase order number, lot number, etc.


Hence, this concludes the definition of EAN.UCC along with its overview.


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