This started after a twitter discussion with a friend about how to find the country/region for products if you only have a stock code, description and the EAN barcode of the items. This got me thinking, what exactly is in a EAN code and could that maybe help?
A quick search on Wikipedia (my favourite source of weird info) I found this info about EAN barcodes. I was sortof right, the EAN barcode contains the code for the region the barcode was registered in, which while not perfect is better than nothing. The first 3 digits of a barcode gives you the GS1 member organisation which you can then lookup on this list (at wikipedia of course). My Twitter friend (Thanks @_enzo) pointed me to this list of GS1 members which is much more detailed than the Wikipedia one.
This won’t work for everything, a bottle of Italian wine bottled in Italy for Woolworths South Africa carries a barcode that was registered in SA by Woolworths. But my Labello lip balm (the manly one…) has a barcode starting with 400 which is Germany, and the can of coke has one starting with 544 which is Belgium/Luxemborg.
You can also lookup the item on UPCDatabase by typing in the barcode which gives info on where the code was registered and what the item is and by who it was registered. If you’re feeling adventurous you can download the entire UPC database from them too.
It’s not perfect but it might turn out to be useful.