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Natural or Organic, what does the label mean?
Confusion abounds in the food and supplement isles of your local health food store. Labels are filled with words like natural or organic, 100% organic, Non GMO, made with organic, and Free Range. Let’s sort out what these terms mean so next time you go shopping you can choose the products you actually want, and be informed about what you are purchasing.
Only products made exclusively with ingredients that have been certified organic can be called “100% Organic.” This organic certification comes from the US Department of Agriculture. These products will carry the (USDA) Organic seal on their label.
To be labeled as “Organic,” a product must be made with at least 95% by weight (water and salt are excluded) of organically produced ingredients. These products may carry the USDA Organic seal but are not 100% organic.
“Made with Organic” are products containing at least 70% organically produced ingredients. Up to three of these organic ingredients may be listed on the front panel of the label.
To have the word “Natural” on a label, the FDA allows this; “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” The term carries less weight than the organic label because the FDA has not developed a definition for “natural” regarding food labels.
“Non-GMO” does not necessarily mean that the product is organic. The Non-GMO Project Verified seal indicates that a product was made according to consensus-based best practices for avoiding genetically modified organisms.
Free Range can be applied to poultry and eggs if the poultry has access to the outdoors for more than half of there their lives, but other requirements are not stringent. Free range does not apply to any other meats. Free range does not mean organic, but free range poultry and eggs can be raise organically and carry the certified organic seal.
Grass-Feed beef must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
Some labels carry the word “Local” which has no real standard. Some states define local as being from that state or within a few miles of it.
Pertaining to fish or shellfish, using Wild Caught on the label certifies the fish has been caught, taken, or harvested from non-controlled wild waters or beds.
Fish or seafood harvested using standard aquaculture methods in a controlled environment will state “Farm Raised” on their label. Just like conventionally raised meat, farmed seafood may contain chemicals, dyes, and be produced with the use of antibiotics and growth hormones.
The US government does not certify seafood as organic, but there are plans in the works to do so within a few years. Seeing the “Organic” label on seafood means it was farmed in accordance with standards set by a private organization or and country other than the US.
Natural or organic? Here’s to hoping this information clears up some of the confusion you may be facing at the grocery store. Natural products are very good, containing nothing artificial. Organic goes the extra step beyond, guarantying no pesticides or chemistry. Please send your comments or questions. Thank you for reading.