Food for Thought: Organic, All Natural and Local, What Do They Really Mean?

Knowledge is power and in this day and age, it’s also absolutely confusing.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, pay attention to the ever-expanding organic, local, and all-natural options on the shelves. It’s becoming big business as more than ever people want to know exactly where their food comes from.

But are we getting what we think we are when buying so called organic chicken or all natural cereal? Get ready to be blown away by the answers.

All Natural and Local are essentially meaningless words.

Up until recent years so was the term organic.  Let’s explain.

Many companies label their foods as “all natural” even when factory-produced chemicals are present and that’s completely ok in the eyes of the law. There is no government regulation of the word ‘natural.’ As a result, there are dozens of lawsuits filed against companies like General Mills and Snapple.

A survey conducted by Consumer Reports last year found that 60% of people surveyed actively look for the word “natural” in the foods they purchase. To take it a step further, more than two-thirds of the people believe natural products are free from artificial ingredients, pesticides, GMOs, and things like artificial growth hormones in meat.

The FDA argues that all foods have likely been processed at one point so are no longer technically a “product of the earth.” This is why it has not created a legal definition of natural. The FDA does however have a suggestion: Natural may mean no added color, no artificial flavors or no synthentic substances.  Riiiiight.

How about those local strawberries in your shopping cart? Just how local are they? Again, there is no regulation or legal definition of this term. Some stores consider a 500-mile radius to be local enough, others like Whole Foods, say 200 miles makes something local. You say tomato, I saw tomahto.

Now to the biggie: organic. You’ll be relieved to know that this industry is highly regulated with a strict set of rules and regulations.

The United States Department of Agriculture even has a legal definition for the term. For a product to be labeled “USDA Organic,” producers must not use any synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), growth hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed for animals.

It’s a long and expensive process to even earn the label of USDA Organic

Farmers must actually remove ALL of the above listed products from their farms for three years prior to certification.

Here’s where things get tricky though, because many products are labeled as organic instead of USDA Organic. These foods have no guarantee that GMOs or synthetic pesticides were not used.

The moral of this story? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, your all naturalcrackers may be anything but! Oh, and you may want to start a garden.

We want to know, have you been filling your cart with what you thought were “healthier” food items?  Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear your thoughts.