Cynthia Curtis Harington is a nationally recognized nutritionist who writes for broadcast media and publications. Some of her articles are offered here at no charge. Others are available for a small fee which helps her continue to fund her research efforts.

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Organic vs. Natural

Eight helpful tips for sorting out confusing food labels

  1.  Look for the specific word, “Organic” on the label.

  2. “Organic” food products are regulated by the USDA and produced by farmers under a strict set of rules.

  3. “Natural” is a term defined by the USDA only for meat and poultry.  In the rest of the food industry, the meaning of “natural” is largely up to the producer.

  4. In order to cut costs associated with maintaining “organic” regulations, some companies are making changes that could possibly blur the line between “organic” and “natural” and add to consumer confusion.

  5. Many Americans mistakenly believe “natural” is a greener term than “organic”.   The opposite is true.

  6. Dean Foods, the nation’s largest organic dairy producer, recently announced that it plans to introduce a line of yogurt and milk marketed as “natural” called “Little Blends” and “Milk Breakers”.  The new products will feature Horizon Organic’s familiar cow, even though the products are not organic.

  7. “All natural” was the second-most common claim on food products launched in 2008.  Because the term has few regulations, it is pliable enough to include ingredients not available to the average home cook.

  8. “Organic” = The USDA regulates that certified organic produce must be grown on a farm that for at least three years has used no synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers and has not planted any genetically modified seeds, used fertilizers derived from sewage sludge or treated seeds with irradiation. “Natural” = No regulatory definition.  Don’t be fooled by the label.
    Excerpts taken from the Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2009 article by Monica Eng --
    “Organic vs. natural – Labeling of food a growing source of confusion, critics say”