What is the Difference between Natural and Organic?

There is a difference between natural vs organic foods. Natural means food that isn’t chemically altered or synthesized. These foods are extracted from plants and animals. Organic means that food is produced, manufactured and controlled by certified organizations like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to comply with its Organic Food Products Act. Just because something is organic does not mean that it’s natural and the same holds true for the reverse based on the outlined definitions.

natural vs organic

Natural vs Organic

More people want to purchase organic foods because it is ensured due to the certifications from the seals guaranteed for quality and they are government controlled. These guaranteed seals have legal implications. Manufacturers are obliged to follow certain rules and guidelines prior to use the organic seal. They choose organic foods because they don’t want any chemical NPK fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives to interfere with its properties.

Strict regulations exist on a global scale for the production, management and processing for organic food. There are no antibiotics or growth hormones given to animals. Third-party inspectors carry out announced and unofficial certification inspections. The inspectors oversee producers and processors of organic products to make sure they abide by the rules. There are many worthy reasons to trust the official seal.

Organic Food is Known for Being:

  • Free from toxic elements and persistent pesticides
  • Restricting of fake growth hormones
  • Refusing of cloning

In Terms of Processing, Organic Food:

  • Has no preservatives
  • Doesn’t have any fake colours or flavours
  • Doesn’t contain GMOs
  • Has no exposed products or ingredients

Due to Strict USDA Regulations, Organic Certified Food Must:

  1. Be officially USDA certified
  2. All producers must follow the USDA’s regulations for organic food
  3. Any producers who sell below $5,000 per year in organic food may be exempt from the certification
  4. Be certified organic by 95% or more to display the USDA seal
  5.  Have the USDA seal if products like fruits, eggs, vegetables and other foods with a single-ingredient are labeled 100% organic.
  6. Use the USDA label with the following wording for foods with multiple ingredients depending on its number of organic ingredients like breakfast cereal
  7. Be labeled 100% organic if products are completely organic or all the ingredients must be organic
  8. Recognize that products which contain at least 70% organic ingredients can state “made with organic ingredients” for the label but can’t use the seal
  9. Restrict foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients to use the official distinguishing word or the seal for the product labels
  10. Allow manufacturers of foods which contain less than 70% organic ingredients to list out all organic items

Organic food probably isn’t more nutritious than natural food. However, no clear answer is available yet. One recent study analyzed the past 50 years’ of worthy scientific articles regarding the nutrient content for organic and natural food. These researchers found that organic and natural produced food aren’t much different in terms of their nutrient content.

Why Would a Consumer Choose Organic vs Natural Foods?

There are multiple factors which influence consumers to buy organic food. A list of factors includes:

  • Taste preferences
  • Health concerns
  • Safety
  • Not wanting exposure to food additives, artificial properties or toxicity
  • Environmental reasons to reduce pollution and conserve the quality of the water and soil

Does All Natural Mean Organic?

There are a couple of downsides when it comes to buying organic food. Organic food tends to cost more than natural and processed food. The expensive and thorough farming practices contribute to the high price of organic food.

Organic produce tends to spoil faster because waxes and preservatives are not treated to extend its shelf life. As a result, organic produce usually looks a bit odd and less than perfect in terms of its shape, colour or smaller size. Organic food is required to meet the same high standards for natural food in regards to quality and safety.

Why Consumers Pick Natural Foods?

Some people choose natural foods because they believe that synthesizing results in somewhat of a loss in the levels of nutrients and benefits. There should be a similar act to the Organic Food Products Act which is necessary for natural foods but it has yet to happen. Although it’s not a certified organization, the International Association of Natural Products Producers (IANPP) wants to get solid clarification for natural food in place.

There aren’t any specific guidelines from the FDA nor the USDA for natural seals. Manufacturers can use the natural labels at will. Many foods that contain heavily processed ingredients are subsequently labelled “natural” by food manufacturers. There is an assumption that natural foods don’t contain hormones, antibiotics or synthetic flavours.

List of Differences

  • There is a significant demand for organic food compared to natural food
  • No evidence has shown that organic food is better for you than natural food
  • Organic food has a higher price than non-organic food
  • Natural food costs more than processed food

Shelf Life

  • Organic food has a longer shelf life than natural food
  • Organic food can be stored safely for a long time
  • Natural food has a short shelf life because it’s minimally processed and has a high water content

Availability of Organic vs Natural Foods

• Organic food is sold in almost every big supermarket.
• Some specialty stores exclusively sell organic food
• People can buy organic food online
• Natural food is also available at most stores which sell organic food.
• Select specialty stores sell natural food
• Many stores which sell health food items also carry natural food because it’s a growing market.

Food Safety Tips

food safety tips

Consumers of organic and natural food should keep these handy tips in mind:

  1. Pick many types of food from various sources for better nutrition from a mix and the reduction in exposure to pesticides.
  2. Try to purchase seasonal produce for optimal freshness. Ask your grocer to find out which day new fruits and vegetables arrive. Buy food at a local farmers market.
  3. Carefully read food labels. Products with organic claims on the label or if it says it contains organic ingredients doesn’t exactly mean it’s a better alternative to natural food. Keep in mind that some organic products may be high in calories, fat, sugar or salt.
  4. Thorough clean and scrub produce under running water. Wash produce to help remove dirt, traces of chemicals on the surface and bacteria. However, pesticide residues may not be removed just by washing. Try peeling fruits and vegetable if you are concerned about pesticides. Unfortunately, peeling produce can result in losing some nutrients like fiber.

Organic Farming

  1. Farmers don’t use other methods to control and fertilize weedsorganic farming
  2. Various practices include crop rotation and mulch to control weeds
  3. Use natural fertilizers for soil and plants
  4. Reduces pollution
  5. Encourages the conservation of soil and water
  6. Farmers carry out certain ways of growing and processing agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat and grains

Consumer Preferences

  1. Some people choose organic food due to feeling that it’s safer than other food because chemicals aren’t used during production.
  2. Recent research has found organic milk has various health benefits to delight organic food consumers.
  3. There is evidence that selecting organic food may lead to consuming more beneficial antioxidants and reducing exposure to toxic elements.
  4. Many people select natural food due to believing that excessive processing disrupts the hidden health benefits.

There are multiple reasons why some consumers may prefer organic food to natural food. The factors of nutrition, reassurance through guarantees or claims and price help consumers make a conscious decision. Organic food used to be available exclusively in health food stores. Due to the rising popularity, organic food is sold at many supermarkets along with natural food. Consumers are now faced with a dilemma when it comes to choosing produce. Food shoppers can be assured that natural and organic aren’t interchangeable terms. Natural food may also be labeled “all natural”, “free-range” or “hormone-free”. These natural food descriptions may be true but they shouldn’t be associated with the term “organic”.

Samantha Merz

Samantha lives in Vancouver, BC. Samantha is an avid volunteer in the community, enjoys singing and playing badminton.

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