Natural vs Organic? How Do You Choose?

How do you choose between yummy natural granola bars and delicious organic granola bars?
Without looking at the ingredients, you might be persuaded to grab the natural granola bars
because they are cheaper and, well, they are natural. Natural seems to be just as good as organic
when you look at the packaging, but what you may not know is that products branded as
“natural” are not held to the same standards that organic products are. Assuming that natural
products are minimally processed and do not contain artificial flavors, hormones, or antibiotics
would be a mistake. So, what is the difference between natural and organic products?
Natural-labeled products are unregulated, without a promise to the customer that the
ingredients are actually good for you. Natural products do not adhere to guidelines such as no
artificial colors, no artificial preservatives and no genetically modified organisms whereas
organic products adhere to requirements. The main issue with the natural food label is the use of
the word ‘natural’ to mislead shoppers. Yet, shoppers don’t even know that they are being
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) regulate organic products to ensure that farmers do not use synthetic pesticides, toxic
synthetic herbicides or chemical fertilizers in the cultivating of the plants or any growth
hormones or antibiotics on the animals.
According to the USDA, the farmers of organic products must keep any prohibited
substances off the land and pass random and scheduled USDA and FDA thorough inspections
and control diseases that could contaminate the produce or animals. When farmers commit to
becoming organic, they begin the one to three-year process of detoxing their fields or their herds
of animals. Once they obtain their certification, companies can label their product “organic” if
95% of the ingredients are certified organic.
According to a Consumer Reports article, a Del Monte Fruit Natural fruit cup contained
artificial preservatives like potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate which are made from
industrial chemicals. Can you see how confusing that can be for consumers to see the word
“natural,” but the product contains chemicals? Using “natural” to market your product is not
necessarily bad, but it remains undefined by the FDA or the USDA. Consumers must educate
themselves on the fundamental differences between natural and organic products. Next time you
see a product labeled natural, look at the ingredients compared to the organic product nearby.
You may be surprised at how many ingredients you cannot pronounce on the ‘natural’ product
versus the organic product.