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Misleading Labels in Food

Natural VS. Organic

The term “natural” is unregulated and it can mean whatever a company decides.  The term “organic” means:  Foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.  AND, the term Organic is REGULATED by the government with strict standards.  The funny thing is, back in the old days, that’s how all food was produced, so it didn’t need to be called Organic — it was just called FOOD.

Consumers are confused about “natural” verses “organic,” and rightly so.  The words are used interchangeably on many products.  Plus, many companies that started out producing Organic products are switching (due to cost, regulations, profits, etc) and now they are making “natural” products – at a PREMIUM price.  They have already built consumer trust in their products, and many people do not know or understand the difference.

Example in point:

Do you see anything confusing about these two boxes of Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese?  Isn’t it a little strange that the “Totally Natural” version lists “No artificial anything” at the top of the list, but they don’t include the “No Pesticides or Hormones” as listed on the Organic box?  A great explanation from the Cornucopia Report:

“Natural” generally is thought to mean “no artiicial ingredients,” including preservatives, but the farms and processing plants that produce ingredients for “natural” foods are not prohibited by law from using dangerous pesticides, genetically engineered crops, fumigants, solvents and toxic processing aids. These agricultural and manufacturing inputs are not required by law to be listed on ingredient labels.

From the same report, some interesting information about companies that started out organic, but are switching to “natural.”

Percentage organic or “made organic” cereal/granola in 2007 VS 2011

2007              2011

Annie’s Homegrown®            100%              20%
Barbara’s Bakery®                 60%               20%
Peace Cereal®                      100%               0%

*Based on products offered wholesale from the UNFI catalog, 2007 and 2011

And guess what!  Even though these companies are no longer producing the Organic foods they started out with, they are charging a premium for so-called natural foods that really are not natural at all (if you follow the food chain).  Consumers are paying that premium because they think they are buying something “more healthy” for themselves or their family.  In fact, several market research studies have shown that the majority of Americans believe that “natural” means the absence of Pesticides, Herbicides and GMO’s.  AND, more people value the “all natural” label over the “organic” label.  You can see the independent studies here on Page 10.

Don’t be fooled by claims of “all natural” and DON’T PAY EXTRA FOR IT!  I choose USDA Organic foods whenever I have a choice.  That means I’m sending a message with my money that I want REAL food, and I’m willing to pay extra to NOT have GMO’s, pesticides, toxic chemicals, and other unnatural stuff in my food.