03/20 Health & Wellness Tip – “Natural” or “Organic”

When a label says ”Natural” on it what does that mean? When it says “Organic” or “Made with Organic Ingredients” what does that mean? All this can be so confusing! (Yet another reason to eat more whole foods and less processed foods)

The FDA website says this about “Natural” on food labels:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. For more information, see “Natural” on Food Labeling.

03202016_OrganicLabelThe good thing is “100% Organic” means just that. There are other variations of organic on labels though so here is some guidance:

  • “Organic” means at least 95% of the ingredients are organic
  • “Made with Organic Ingredients” means that 70-94% of the ingredients are organic
  • When there is less than 70% organic ingredients, the label can’t say “Organic” at all

It is also good to know that using the USDA Organic symbol is voluntary. So, just because the symbol is not on a label doesn’t mean the product isn’t organic. That is why understanding the variations of “Organic” and looking at the list of ingredients is important.

This Mayo Clinic article gives some good tips on Food Safety to check out. Read the article for details.

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Buy in season when possible
  • Read food labels (check out last week’s tip)
  • Clean fruits and vegetables

This CBS News video gives a great overview of what “Natural” and “Organic” does and does not mean. Here is a summary:

  • As stated above, there is no definition of the term
  • It should mean there are no artificial or synthetic ingredients
  • There is no verification process when it says “Natural” on the label
  • “Organic” must be proven, not so for “Natural”

Save time and don’t look for “Natural” on the label. Even when it says “Natural flavor” in the ingredient list, I question what that means. I focus on “Organic” and on the list of ingredients which will identify those ingredients that are and are not organic.

by Michele Spear