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Is All-Natural The Same As Organic?

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by Heidi Hauser Green
July 25, 2011

Is there a difference between all-natural and organic food?

The term “organic” provides some assurances about the methods used during food production. By comparison, the term “all-natural” is a marketing term that is almost entirely unregulated.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) controls the official “organic” seal in accord with the Organic Food Products Act. The department sets standards for which foods may bear the seal on their packages, according to product contents (you can read about recent controversy allowing additives with claims of nutritional value to organic foods here). Classifications of organic foods are based on the percentage of ingredients that are organic:

  • 100 percent organic ingredients. These foods may be labeled as “100 percent organic” and may bear the USDA’s organic seal.
  • 95 percent or more. These foods may be labeled as “organic,” and they may bear the seal.
  • 70 percent or more. These foods may say “made with organic ingredients” on the label, but they cannot bear the official seal.
  • Less than 70 percent. These foods may list the word “organic” in their ingredient list, but they cannot use it on their product label and cannot bear the official seal.

The USDA only stipulates use of the word “natural” for meat and poultry. Otherwise, “natural” is an unregulated term. It is often found on labels of foods manufactured through conventional, non-organic means.

This is not to say that organic food is necessarily better. As explained elsewhere on baby gooroo (read more here and here) the research is still out on the health benefits of organically grown foods.

Additional information about the USDA’s Organic Foods Program is available on the department’s website.

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