This post was sponsored by Noble Juice. All opinions are my own.
What is the Difference Between Organic and Natural?
I’ll admit that for quite some time, I didn’t know the difference between organic and natural. They both look good on a food or beverage package, don’t they? How are we supposed to know the difference?
I dove down the rabbit hole of investigation to find out. If you’ve read any of my previous scientific explorations, such as finding out the difference between white and brown sugar, then you know that I love a good food mystery.
So let’s start with easier of the two to define: organic.
What Does Organic Really Mean?
The use of the word “organic” on food and beverage packages is tightly regulated by the United States government. In order to be labeled organic, foods must meet the USDA organic qualifications.
- Plants must be grown on soil that has not been treated for the last 3 years with prohibited substances.
- Processed or multi-ingredient foods must not contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. They may contain non-organic ingredients that are considered non-agricultural, such as enzymes, pectin, or baking soda.
- Animals must be raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors, fed 100% organic feed, and must not be administered antibiotics or hormones.
- No organic foods can include or be handled with GMO foods.
If a product label says “made with organic ingredients,” then it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients, and may not use prohibited practices such as GMOs, but it can include non-organic ingredients that would not be found in a product labeled “Organic.”
What Does Natural Really Mean?
While the word “organic” is regulated by the USDA, the word “natural” is not. The FDA, which oversees food additives, has also not regulated the term “natural”; however, the FDA has stated that it will not object to the use of the term “natural” so long as a product does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.
Did you get all that? You might want to get a cup of coffee, think about it, then come on back and keep reading.
What that boils down to is that the use and meaning of the word “natural” is basically up to the manufacturer. One would hope that “natural” means that a product is less processed and does not contain any additives- but different food and beverage manufacturers approach this with different levels of transparency and honesty. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer and ask: “What’s in this stuff, anyway?”
If the reply indicates that the product contains no artificial flavors, colors, ingredients, or preservatives, then I’d say that’s what most of us consider to be “all natural,” even if there isn’t a regulated definition of the term.
The Bottom Line
So, what’s the difference between organic and natural? Organic is a federally regulated term that defines the specific methods of production for food and beverage items. When you buy organic products, you can assume that the organic regulations have been followed in the production of that item.
Since “natural” is not a regulated term, consumers can read the package and contact the manufacturer to confirm whether or not the product meets their personal standards for what they consider a “natural” food.
Sometimes I buy organic, and sometimes I buy natural. What matters most is to educate yourself so that you know what food and beverage labels mean; then, you can make an informed choice!