What's The Difference Between Organic + Natural Food Labels?

Finally, a solid explanation to help guide you through the grocery store aisles.

March 9, 2016
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Both words sell a greener eating experience, but only organic delivers the full grocery cart of nutritional goods. For a food to bear the USDA Organic logo, it must meet strict criteria, including no synthetic ingredients, no petroleum-based fertilizers, no synthetic pesticides like Roundup, and no genetic modification. In the case of meat, poultry, and eggs, animals should have been fed 100 percent organic feed.

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The bar is a lot lower for the word "natural." The FDA requires only that these foods contain no added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. Though additives like carrageenan are allowed. "'Natural' is a marketing gimmick," says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., a nutrition professor at New York University and the author of Food Politics. "Food companies have always used 'natural' to market products, but its use increased after the USDA passed its organic standards in 2002. The word 'natural' should serve as a warning for you to scan the ingredient label."

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Be especially wary of ice cream, cereals, and fruit snacks, which often contain chemically processed ingredients, such as corn syrup, alkalized cocoa, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, vanillin, and maltodextrin. What's more, foods labeled "natural" are allowed to have genetically modified ingredients and to be grown using pesticides; and meat, fish, and poultry bearing that label can be raised with growth hormones and antibiotics.


This article originally published on Men's Health.