Organic vs Natural: Is There a Difference?

Recent statistics show that sales of organic products continue to rise, however what is surprising is that sales of products labeled as “Natural” rose even higher.  Initially this puzzled me; why would consumers embrace inferior “Natural” products compared to Certified Organic ones? I soon realized that products labeled as “Natural” creates the image that the ingredients were grown using environmentally harmonious methods, and processed using the least invasive processes possible. The reality is a stark contrast to this imagery.

Unlike being Certified Organic, the term “Natural” is loosely regulated, meaning that companies can craft their own version of what they think is natural.

There are no independent inspections, no yearly audits, and no regulations to adhere to, thus their is nothing back up their claims.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the term ‘Natural’ only in certain areas of food such as meat and poultry, and then as it applies to added colour, synthetic substances, and flavours. So what does this mean? A food labeled “Natural” can contain nasties such as:

  • pesticides
  • herbicides
  • Gentically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
  • toxic heavy metals
  • trace amounts of PCBs
  • toxic fluoride
  • hidden MSG
  • high-temperature cooking byproducts

I can’t imagine any food containing the above being considered natural.

To Certified Organic farmers, the term “Natural” is a joke.

It has become a brilliant marketing strategy for companies; they are able to charge more money and gain perceived value for their products by slapping on a green ribbon and adding the words “All Natural” to their packaging. It is an easy way for companies to sidestep the hassles, costs and regulations of being organic but still gaining the respect organic food has. The obvious danger is consumers believing organic and natural are the same thing, or that organic is just a fancy way of saying expensive.

If understanding the food we eat was not already hard enough, now we have to sift through marketing material and labeling that has the sole purpose to deceive and mislead. Once again, our only defense is doing our own research to find what is the truth and what is a scam.