What is the difference between natural and organic on food labels? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Let’s try to clear it up so we know what we are buying.
The term “organic” specifically refers to the farming practices used to grow food. For a product to be labeled organic, it must meet USDA standards and be certified as organic. Most conventional bug sprays and other chemicals are not used in growing organic produce, while antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited in organic livestock. The Food Marketing Institute backgrounder states:
They must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity — two key elements of environmentally sustainable agriculture . Crops must be grown without using synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic foods may not be irradiated.
The term “natural” may be confusing because there are no defined standards of what makes something “natural.” That said, the FDA does state that in order for foods to bear the term “natural,” they must be “minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives; artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors and other additives; hydrogenated oils; stabilizers and emulsifiers.”
You’ll find many items in stores labeled as “natural.” Remember, natural foods are not necessarily organic, and many natural products still contain pesticides.
SuperFoods are a group of the most nutritious whole foods that can help you prevent disease and get healthier while being environmentally aware. Keep in mind that not every natural or organic food is necessarily a healthy food (organic potato chips, for example), but rest assured that the most basic, minimally process whole foods are a good place to start.