What Is Organic?

Do Organic and Natural Mean the Same?

According to the National Society for Nutrition, there is no clear definition for the term "natural" and you’ll see terms like “100 percent natural” and “all natural” on the shelves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating and supervising food production. FDA’s official policy is that “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.” Many feel that this is an ambiguous policy that leaves interpretation of “natural” largely up to the food industry.

Do ‘Organic’ and ‘Natural’ Mean the Same Thing? According to the National Society for Nutrition, there is no clear definition for the term "natural" and you’ll see terms like “100 percent natural” and “all natural” on the shelves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating and supervising food production. FDA’s official policy is that “the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

Many feel that this is an ambiguous policy that leaves interpretation of “natural” largely up to the food industry. In contrast to the FDA, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does regulate use of the word “natural” when applied to meat, poultry, and eggs, stating that a “natural” food is “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed”. Although consumers purchasing “natural” meat, poultry, and eggs can be confident that there are no artificial ingredients or coloring added, it's important to note that “natural” does not necessarily mean hormone-free or antibiotic-free; these are separate labels, also regulated by the USDA.

OPN feels that this causes a great deal of confusion for the consumer. Add in terms like "free-range," "hormone-free" and others on food labels and consumer confusion deepens. These descriptions must be truthful, but don't confuse them with the term "organic." Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled organic.

Unlike “natural,” which has no clear definition, use of the “organic” food label and seal is strictly regulated by the National Organic Program, administered through the USDA. Foods with an organic seal are certified organic and contain at least 95% organic content. Organic food is produced using approved organic farming methods “that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Specifically, “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used” to produce organic food, meaning that organic food products are not genetically modified and have not been treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.