Organic, USDA 100% Certified Organic and Natural – Is there a difference?

ORGANIC, 100% CERTIFIED ORGANIC, and NATURALDon’t they all mean the same thing? If not, what’s the difference and is it important? All the different labels can be confusing. But no, they don’t mean the same thing and yes, they are very important.

NATURALFirst, let’s tackle the NATURAL label. Foods labeled as natural have to be healthy, right? I mean natural should mean no bad stuff. Many believe the term “natural” means that a processed food has no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

It’s a very misleading term because FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. The FDA does say, however, that it does not object to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. Sounds good, but the down side is they may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals. Even though labels are evaluated to prevent mislabeling, no inspections are conducted and producers are not required to be certified.

Seeking out ORGANIC food is a step in the right direction. Organic has got mean the food is superimages (3) healthy because it’s super expensive! Well, not so fast. Yes, it’s a big step up from natural but according to the USDA, organic products must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. The remaining non-organic ingredients are produced without using prohibited practices (genetic engineering, for example) but can include ingredients that would not otherwise be allowed in 100% organic products. On a packaged product, You can find the identity of the certifier for verification that the organic product meets USDA’s organic standards.

cropped-usda-organic-logo-240x190.jpgUSDA 100% CERTIFIED ORGANIC is the way to go if you want truly organic food. The USDA classifies 100% Organic as being made with 100% organic ingredients. Processing is 100% organic as well.  The United States and Canadian governments do not allow companies to label products “100% Certified Organic” if they contain genetically modified foods. This is the only label that certifies a completely organic product and completely GMO-free ingredients.

One other label that is also important is the non-GMO. It is smart to also buy products that arecropped-non-gmo-logo-with-border.jpg certified by the Non-GMO Project. The certification process behind this label is currently the best possible way of assuring that you are eating GMO-free food (but remember, not all of the products bearing the Non-GMO Project label are organic. For the best of both worlds, chose products that also include the USDA Organic label).

I hope this helps remove some of the confusion. Don’t just depend on your local grocery store. Check out your local farmer’s markets and healthy food stores that specialize in organic food and products. Online stores are another great source. They often have more selections and free shipping with a modest order. There are some listed in the side bar.

As Dr. Mercola so aptly put it:

“Many “health” experts continue to argue that there is little difference between organic and conventionally raised produce, but the scientific evidence — and common sense — says otherwise. Food grown in healthier soil, with natural fertilizers and no chemicals, is quite simply more nutritious, and as an added boon, will not load you up with dangerous toxins that can destroy your health.”


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