organic vs natural

The labeling rules for organic vs natural products vary from country to country and involves a set of standards for the growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping of food products. This includes any business directly involved in that food production, from the seed suppliers, farmers, processors, retailers and restaurants. As for soap makers, there are no rules and regulations regarding labeling for soap.

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Generally, the rules are:

  • avoiding synthetic chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc, as well as genetically modified organisms
  • using farmland and that been free of chemicals for a number of years, usually three years, sometimes more
  • keeping accurate and up to date record keeping with production and sales numbers
  • maintaining strict physical separation of non-certified products and certified products to avoid contamination
  • allowing inspections of premises.

Non-certified and certified food producers still adhere to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply, but obtaining the specialized certified label needs extra precautions to ensure that consumers are receiving what they are expecting.

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There are four levels of RTA labelling rules for organic vs natural products:

  1. 100% Organic: means all ingredients are organic. The USDA Organic logo may be used on the packaging
  2. Organic: means that a minimum of 95% of the ingredients are organic. The package may included the USDA Organic logo
  3. Made with Organic Ingredients: 70% to 94% of the product is organic. USDA logo cannot be used on package
  4. Panel ingredient only: Means the food has less that 70% of organic ingredients. “Organic” can only be used on the ingredient panel.

If there are still some chemical-free ingredients, there cannot be any mention of certification on the products label but the specific unrefined ingredient may be specified in the ingredient list.

What about natural? This designation applies to ingredients that have not been processed with chemicals and synthetics AFTER leaving the farm. Which means that the farm may have maximized its spraying limits over the growing season, but that broccoli isn’t further bombarded with chemicals after picking, it can be called ‘natural’.

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This word natural is so overused, along with every other word a thesaurus can bring up. Such as pure, wholesome, unrefined, additive-free, authentic, farm fresh, handmade. And there are all the other terms which leads us to think the item is 100% natural or chemical-free, such as naturally inspired, no animal testing, fair trade.

When you are grocery shopping, here is an easy way to decipher the codes on the produce:

  • 5 digits – starting with a 9 – produce grown organically
4 digits – starting with 3 or 4 – grown conventionally
  • 5 digits – starting with 8 – produce genetically modified.
  • It can be difficult sifting through the marketing to find the truth. Basically, if a big corporation or company made it, be on red alert.

A lot of mis-leading advertising sure applies to air fresheners, read more here.

Here is a link to the FDA page on labeling, regarding organic vs natural products, in the cosmetics section, where soap generally is categorized.

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