Various labels and health claims cover food packaging these days. Some labels and health claims are regulated by the FDA, while others are simply advertising. Deciphering labels can be confusing and the laws and regulations behind them are even more confusing. After completing a course in Food Law this summer I thought I would try to simplify and clear up some confusion about “organic” versus “natural” labeled products.
Definition:“foods that are grown and processed with minimal synthetic materials”
Regulated by the USDA. There are regulated synthetic substances that may be used as well as nonsynthetic substances that cannot be used in the production of “organic” products.
100% Organic: In order for a product to be labeled “100% organic” it must be grown and handed in an establishment that has been certified by the National Organic Program.
Made with organic ingredients: For a product to be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” it must contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients.
Only certain ingredients produced organically: May not display the USDA seal shown below, but may identify individual ingredients that were produced organically. For example, “ Made with organic carrots.”
Definition: By law, there is not one! This label is not regulated.
There are no limitations to using the term “natural” if the food “does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances”.
Understanding what these labels mean can help you be a savvy shopper and avoid getting tricked by misleading labels. The most important thing is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein. It is a personal choice whether eating organic is important to you. Keep in mind that there are many foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar that are also certified organic. Reading the nutrition facts label is the only way to really know how healthy a food is for you and your family.
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