Natural Vs. Organic: What’s The Difference?

In the U.S., two governmental bodies regulate food: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The former oversees meat, poultry, and eggs, while the latter tackles all other consumable products, per Michigan State University.

In its simplest terms, both organizations offer a similar description of ‘natural’ — food containing no synthetic additives (via USDA and FDA). However, the similarities end there. The USDA goes even further to state that products must be minimally processed and not go through any fundamental alterations. Additionally, the USDA is the only one of the two agencies that requires the moniker to be backed up with an explanation on the label, citing precisely what qualities (like ‘minimally processed’, or ‘no artificial ingredients) to make the product natural, per USDA. 

The FDA has issued releases stating that it is assessing criteria to define ‘natural foods,’ but that the agency has not put it into action. Governmental ambiguity has led to an array of lawsuits for both organizations, especially since the USDA doesn’t verify what’s happening on the farm, only inside processing plants, states The New York Times. Consequently, meat and poultry products are the only ones where there is a verifiable difference with a ‘natural’ label; everything else is exclusively a marketing term.

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