Monday, August 11, 2008

Organic versus Natural: What's the difference?

I spent a few minutes last night trying to explain the difference between produce labeled "certified organic," yogurt "made with organic ingredients," and a "natural" skin care product. I'm not an expert but I am a nerd so I did a little research (big surprise) and thought I should share my findings on the blog. So here goes:

Organic and Certified Organic
The term "organic" suggests that a botanical product was grown in an environment free of chemicals, fertilizer and pesticides. Chemical products are replaced by natural ones making the organic item bio-compatible with our bodies, more readily absorbed. The final product must be at least 95% organic in order for it to receive the Certified Organic stamp of approval. The Certified Organic label also assures that the producer passes regular inspections of their facilities, ingredients and practices as well as pays a fee for the certification. Some products will boast that they are "made with organic ingredients." This means that at least 70% of the material used is organic. The other 30% (or 5%) may or may not include additives and preservatives.

Now it gets complicated. Products labeled "natural" ensure that the final product is made solely from botanical resources without any use of additives or preservatives. We often see the term natural used in regards to meat and poultry. This means that the livestock was raised without the use of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics, growth stimulants, etc. The USDA says:

"...the term 'natural' may be applied only to products that contain no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. Minimally processed products that do not contain these types of ingredients, such as fresh meat and poultry, will automatically qualify for the use of the term 'natural' on product labeling."

Bottom Line
Look for the certified organic seal of approval on produce and anything packaged. When it comes to meat, which it's my my understanding should be consumed sparingly, opt for natural or free range. For more information, look around on

(thnx Niko)

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