Sometimes the confusion over natural, organic, and 100% organic puts me in the mind of the famous Abbott and Costello baseball skit, “Who’s on First?” I imagine a discussion between them on natural, organic, and 100% organic labeling going something like this:
Abbott: Did you get the lettuce?
Costello: Yeah, got it right here.
Abbott: Is it organic?
Costello: It says it’s natural.
Abbott: The lettuce talks?
Costello: No, the label. It states the lettuce is natural.
Aboott: Does that mean it’s organic?
Abbott: Natural is organic, naturally?
Costello: Sure, it grows in nature doesn’t it?
Abbott: So, why does the label say natural and not organic?
Costello: Because organic is natural and natural organic. So, it doesn’t matter.
Abbott: Natural is organic, naturally then you say?
Costello: Organic is natural.
Abbott: Only if it’s not on a label. Then there’s 100% organic.
Abbott: 100% organic is more organic than organic and natural.
Costello: What about natural? Nature is nature, which is organic.
Abbott: Naturally you’d think that. But natural is marketing.
Costello: I go to the market to get natural?
Abbott: Natural is marketing spin. It makes food & things look healthy and organic.
Costello: I’m beginning to spin. So, I go to the market and spin my food to make it natural & organic.
Abbott: You don’t spin it. Companies with marketing departments do.
Costello: Companies have departments that do the marketing? I want to work there.
Abbott: They don’t do the shopping for you. Marketing departments spin words and create images to make the products more appealing to customers.
Costello: Is this natural?
Abbott: We’ve been over this. 100% organic is natural only. Only in the natural world is organic natural and 100% doesn’t exist.
Costello: So, let me get this straight. Natural marketing is unnatural, natural is not organic, and organic is not 100%.
Costello: Don’t start; I’m leaving with my lettuce.
Okay, so maybe it’s not as funny as the “Who’s on First,” but it does offer a description of the confusion over natural, organic, and 100% organic. And yes, some of the confusion is done purposely by marketing machines, especially the “natural” description.
“Natural” Labeling Is a Marketing Term Only
Basically, “natural” had no official designation when it comes to most food and means nothing with regard to cosmetics. The USDA defines “natural” only as it relates to meat, poultry, and eggs only. For meat, poultry, and eggs the definition means, “minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.” It doesn’t say anything about how the meat, poultry, or eggs are farmed or produced.
Companies have latched onto the fact that “natural” and “from nature” have no official designation. The terms can be used broadly to describe about anything that has even a remote connection to nature.
The same is true with “natural” or “naturally-based” cosmetics. Theoretically, a product can contain 99% chemical based ingredients and state on its label that is “natural” or contains “natural ingredients.” Many companies take advantage of this to confuse consumers because they want to capture and use the trend toward organic lifestyle.
“Natural,” “from nature, “natural source derived” are all marketing terms. Period.
“Organic” Products Can Contain Chemicals
In addition, “organic” does not mean that the ingredients are all organic as in without manmade chemicals. By USDA regulations, multi-ingredient products can have up to 5% nonorganic ingredients. These ingredients must come from USDA approved nonorganic list.
Not to confuse you even more, but products labeled “contains organic ingredients” can have up to 30% manmade chemicals or nonorganic ingredients.
100% Organic Assures No Synthetic Chemicals
Only those products labeled 100% organic are truly natural in the true sense of the word as in straight from Mother Nature without chemical additives or chemical processes. Products labeled such cannot contain any manmade chemicals or chemicals derived from natural sources.
Ending the Confusion
So, hopefully you are not as confused as Abbott and Costello. Just remember “natural” is not synonymous with “organic” or “100% organic.” It is a term latched onto by marketing departments. And “100% organic” is the only labeling that is regulated to not have any chemicals in the product. However, to the honesty of 100% organic labeling….well, that’s for another post.
Natural. As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.
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