People are becoming more health conscious every passing day. Changing lifestyles and increasing health problems have encouraged people to practice healthy living. We live in a world where we cannot trust the authenticity or purity of anything since we are excluded from its production process. So the only thing we can do is to know and understand the nutrition labels.
But what do these labels really mean?
Labels can be confusing. Many food items in grocery stores are labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ and both claim to be 100% pure. For the ignorant buyer, both these terms mean the same. Due to this, they end up making a choice based on what they have heard about natural and organic foods, which are often misconceptions. To clear the ambiguity, here are some facts about natural and organic food, and the basic differences between them.
To the layman, this may mean any food that is derived from nature and grown using natural methods. However, according to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US, natural food is simply food that does not contain added colour, artificial flavours, or synthetic substances. However, neither the FDA nor the USDA regulates or supervises the use of these labels. What the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regulates is the use of this label when it comes to meat, eggs, and poultry. The condition being, food must not contain artificial ingredients, added colours, and should be minimally processed. But this does not guarantee that the food is hormone or antibiotic free; these conditions are not mentioned under the guidelines for natural food.
Many natural flavours and sweeteners, and highly processed ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, etc. can be labelled natural. Since there is no regulatory body to enforce guidelines and certify products, almost anything can be labelled ‘natural’ food.
Unlike ‘natural’ food, organic food is closely regulated. The USDA allows the organic seal only if the product has at least 95% organic content. This means that synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetically engineered organisms should not be used in their production. Synthetic growth hormones, cloning, petroleum-based fertilizers, and of course, the other ‘natural’ food criteria such as artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, etc. are also banned.
Joyanna Hansen of the American Society for Nutrition says that consumers who want to make an informed decision should be aware of the ingredients used in natural food; otherwise opt for organic food since it has been produced through a strictly regulated process.
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