Terms, terms, terms. The terminology today of things, places, subject matter – just about everything – is different from what it used to be. I am often asked “what is the difference between Organic and natural?” Another ambiguous topic. What is considered Organic (Natural is a different story), is controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA has created specific standards that all organic farmers, ranchers, and food processors must follow to make sure that the product meets organic principles. The standards and organic principles cover the product from “farm to table,” covering several items such as soil and water quality, livestock practices, pest control and food additives.
What do you want when you hear the word Organic? You want food – which the term organic is usually attached, to be minimally processed, made without synthetic materials, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. You expect food to be farmed with crop rotation, mulch, weeding, etc., and not with the use of sewage sludge, and irradiation. You want foods that are grown in nutrient rich soil which builds health into the food. If you are a meat eater, you want livestock feed to be organic, and not full of antibiotics, or synthetic hormones. You want animal living conditions to be clean and, with chickens to be cage free with access to the outdoors.
While the USDA creates the rules for organic, it is third-party inspectors who visit facilities to ensure U.S. organic standards are met. To be ‘organic,’ farmers, ranchers and food processors must be certified by these inspectors every 3 years to the tune of a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.
There are several different levels to organic certification. The USDA seal, which can be either green, white or black and white, must be certified 95% or more organic. Only products that contain only certified organic ingredients may use the seal that has “100% Organic” verbiage. Products must fall between 70% and 94% organic to claim, “Made with organic ingredients” on their packaging. Anything less than 70%, may only list the names of the ingredients. There are other rules that apply, but they are considered to be minimal . SO –
What is NATURAL?
There have been not formal regulations developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for foods products that claim to be ‘natural.’ The FDA has said that “natural” products should include nothing artificial or synthetic, but does not enforce this policy.
This leaves a lot of room for your imagination about what you are getting, and a lot of so-called wiggle room for the terminology use of ‘natural’. One ingredient is ‘high fructose corn syrup’, a highly processed ingredient that is derived from natural sources. Buyers beware. It is passed off as natural, when it really isn’t. However, some food companies pass it off as ‘natural’. Natural fructose is only in fresh raw fruits and vegetables, and it is unprocessed.
The NPA – the Natural Products Association, for instance, has programs in place for both personal care and home care products, bearing the NPA seal which indicates that the products must use biodegradable ingredients, environmentally sensitive packaging; be made responsible with no animal testing, and not include any ingredients thought to pose a risk to humans and include only natural ingredients. Their own rules.
After this, comes ‘genetically modified’ another topic unto itself. Some companies consider GMO to be natural by some standards. Others believe they are not – because they are likely to contain genetically engineered material. GMO is dangerous – my opinion. You want to believe you are getting GMO FREE products, but you never really know what you are getting. Products and foods that come into the U.S. from other countries are not required by the FDA to list any ingredients on their products, or give you any information about the product or food. You may find that foreign companies do put ingredients and information on some of their products, but you as a consumer have no idea as to the truth of this information.
AGAIN – it is BUYER BEWARE! Do your own research! Come to your own conclusions! I provide information to help you make your decisions, but I cannot tell you what to do, or what is best for you.