In today’s hectic world people want to know their food and body care products are safe, and, so, they tend to shop for “natural” or “organic” products believing natural and organic are equivalents. However, “natural” and “organic” are like two roads headed in different directions.
The truth is “natural” means nothing. There is no Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) or United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standard as to what it means, and, unfortunately, “natural” or “all natural” sounds healthy to health conscious customers, and, as it can legally appear on packages, cartons, bottles, containers, and cans, consumer buy “natural” products thinking they are safe.
“Natural” or “all natural” is not a certification, although the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) does provide guidelines for using the term. According to 1999 memo released to producers, the term “natural” can be applied “to products that contain no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. Minimally processed products that do not contain these types of ingredients, such as fresh meat and poultry, will automatically qualify for the use of the term ‘natural’ on product labeling.” Unfortunately, the FSIS also does not regulate or check producers who claim something is “natural,” and, so, whether a product really is “natural” is another story.
Natural products also contain more than natural substances because conventional methods are used to create natural products. For instance, although natural foods may use vitamin C or vitamin E as a preservative, they may also use synthetic chemical vitamins or insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides when it’s grown. Natural products can also contain trace amounts of PCBs, fluoride, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and other non-natural substances. To learn more about conventional farming techniques versus organic farming techniques read Conventional Farming Versus Organic Farming.
Organic, on the other hand, is a protected term, and there are strict federal regulations as to who can use it. To learn more about the USDA’s guidelines, the labelling of organic products, and what the organic label looks like, read Did You Know Organic …. Additionally, organic farming is founded on such principles as composting and enriching the soil. Organic farmers are also prohibited from using genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as well as toxic and synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, and fungicides. Organic meat producers do not use growth hormones or chemicals, and they allow their animals to survive in open spaces with room to move, which means less sanitary issues, less illness, and less need for antibiotics.
Now that you know “natural” may not be so natural after all, you can head down the right road by looking for the USDA’s organic seal when you shop for products. Also, check product labels, and see what they contain. You’ll find that not only junk foods, such as chips, sodas, and ice cream, contain “natural” ingredients but also granola bars, pet foods, crackers, canned soups, packaged dinners, and frozen meals. Eating “organic” means improving your health and eliminating herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides from your meals. At the same time you will also increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. To learn more about the value of organic foods read Organic Versus Non-organic Foods.