In today’s day and age, more and more consumers are becoming more and more conscious of what they eat, and how it has been raised.
People are striving to make more health conscious choices, which usually means they reach for products that state they are pesticide free, grass fed, etc.
Two of the labeling and marketing terms that are often seen are “all natural” and “organic.” What exactly do these two terms mean? At first glance, consumers might think they are one and the same – but think again.
Just what is the difference between all natural and organic?
In order for a product to be marketed as organic, it must be certified through the United States Department of Agriculture, and the production practices must meet the standards set forth by the Organic Food Production Act, the USDA organic regulations, and the National Organic Program Handbook.
Certified Organic products and their production practices cannot include toxic pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic products must also meet animal welfare requirements and have a traceable audit trail.
According to OrganicFacts.net, “Organic food refers to food items that are produced, manufactured and handled using organic means defined by certifying bodies such as the USDA under its Organic Food Products Act. Natural food, on the other hand, generally refers to food items that are not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. These are derived from plants and animals. Thus a natural food item is not necessarily organic and vice versa.”
The term “all natural” or “natural” is one that sounds appealing to many health conscious buyers, but it has a lot of gray areas and room for interpretation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declined to publish an exact definition for “all natural,” but according to the FDA website, “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.”
No certifications, audits or inspections are required for products to be called all natural, which means that it is possible for the products to contain things like GMOs or growth hormones.
The difference between the terms all natural and organic is something that is often encountered in niche marketplaces.
“The terms organic and all natural have many similar requirements, but the two terms are not the same,” said executive director of Farmers Market of the Ozarks, Lane McConnell. “Organic is the only term that holds federal regulations that defines specific farming practices a producer must meet through organic certification. USDA says that ‘natural’ meat must contain no artificial ingredients or added color, and only minimally processed.
“Our market has gone beyond the USDA guidelines of all natural because we have found through consumer research that customers believe that the term ‘all natural’ means the products contain no antibiotics (if meat products) and that produce is grown without chemicals. Therefore, through our vendor inspections we require that any producer marketing a product as ‘all-natural’ meet these requirements.”
The best way to ensure health conscious choices is to do your research, purchase food directly from your local farmers or even better – grow or raise your own.