How To Tell The Difference Between Natural and Organic

John Shaw is the  Executive Director and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA) He shares some distinctions with natural product retailers that  I thought might interest you. I’m sure  many of us didn’t know there were things we needed to know about our purchase decisions. Especially when it comes to food labeling issues. Thanks to Vitamin Retailer for the article.  Check it out.

Natural vs. Organic: How to Tell the Difference

Many consumers want the best products and are willing to pay extra for natural or organic products. But what are natural products or organic products? And how do we know what we’re paying for is the real deal? Unless you know what to look for, you could just be paying for some fancy marketing.

First, there isn’t a legal definition of “natural,” so companies are left to define it for their products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says natural is defined differently for each product category, so therefore it has left it undefined. Because of this, the Natural Products Association (NPA), with a group of industry stakeholders, has defined natural in the marketplace.

NPA’s definition requires products b:

  • made from ingredients that come from or are made from a renewable resource found in nature
  • absolutely no petroleum compounds. NPA believes natural ingredients
  • must be sourced naturally, but
  • also processed naturally, without synthetic or petroleum additives.

Many companies will claim that their product is natural because the source of the ingredients is natural, but what happens to that ingredient between harvesting it from the ground and adding it to the product can make it synthetic.
NPA turned this definition of “natural” into a certification program called the Natural Seal, which allows companies to voluntarily certify their products as truly natural by a third-party audited process.

Certified products must be at least 95 percent natural ingredients. In 2010, NPA prohibited all synthetic fragrances using a stricter definition of natural fragrance than most standards; this is a move that manufacturers truly embraced.

Turning to organic, there is a legal definition of “organic” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic for foods, but that definition can also be applied to personal care products.

Organic is really a complex definition indicating the product is:

  • made from ingredients that have been grown, raised or mined without synthetic chemicals or
  • genetically engineered seed stock and
  • processed free of synthetic chemicals,
  • sewage sludge,
  • irradiation and other processes.

The NOP also offers a certification categorizing products into one of three labeling types, based on the organic content of the certified product:

• “100 percent organic” means that the product contains only organically produced ingredients and may display the USDA Organic Seal.

• “Organic” means the product consists of at least 95 percent organically produced content, and the remainder must be substances approved on the National List;  this category also can display the USDA Organic Seal.

• For a “made with organic ingredients” statement on the label, the product must be at least 70 percent organic and not use any prohibited ingredients or processes.

So, when choosing natural or organic products for your customers, be sure to look for these seals. With either of these, you are guaranteed they are the real deal.

You can check if your customers’ favorite brands have been certified at

For the latest product updates, connect with the Natural Seal on Facebook at and on Twitter @npanaturalseal.

NPA-certified products appear in more than 85,000 stores nationwide, from independent retailers to some of the largest chains in the country.

Join the cause of natural products and healthy living by becoming a member of NPA. Find out more at

Choosing A Natural Lifestyle Based On Food

Many people are realizing that a more natural lifestyle and diet is a better choice for their health and the health of their families. The quality and purity of the food we eat is the key factor to maintaining a healthy body. Eating food grown naturally makes all the difference. Here are some diet descriptions to help you choose a diet that’s a fit for you.


Organic products are grown using a system of farming that maintains and replenishes the soil fertility without synthetic, toxic pesticides and fertilizers. 

100% Organic

Only products using exclusively organic methods and ingredients can state 100% organic on its label. The label mus also state “certified by” and the certification agency. It can also display the USDA Organic seal.

USDA Certified Organic

This means that 95 percent of more of the ingredients by weight (excluding salt and water) have been organically produced and processed. These foods are also eligible to display the USDA Organic seal.

Made With Organic Ingredients

Products with at least 70 percent organic ingredients may be labeled in this way and list up to three organic ingredients on the front panel.


Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients are only permitted to list organic items on the ingredient information panel.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires all manufacturers of organic products to comply with the new organic standards. These standards ban the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and genetically engineered organisms and irradiation in any product labeled “organic”.

When buying certified organic, it’s useful to know the difference and what the labels really mean.

Organic Trade Association


These foods are minimally processed and contain no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.


Vegetarian foods are derived from plant sources such as fruits, vegetables and legumes. Some animal protein such as eggs or other dairy products are allowed.


A vegan diet is derived solely from plant origin. It excludes animal foods such as meat, eggs, dairy products and honey.




The kosher certification process can be just as thorough as organic. The purpose of Kosher food is to prohibit the contamination of one food type by another focusing on  cleanliness and safety.  Reasons for food not being kosher include the presence of ingredients derived from nonkosher animals or from kosher animals that were not  slaughtered in the ritually proper manner, a mixture of meat and milk, wine, or grape juice (or their derivatives) produced without supervision, the use of produce from Israel that has not been tithed, or the use of non-kosher cooking utensils and machinery.


Halal foods are foods that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic dietary guidelines. The criteria specify both what foods are allowed, and how the food must be prepared. The foods addressed are mostly types of meat/animal tissue. Muslims must ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, pharmaceuticals, and non-food items like cosmetics, are also halal. Frequently, these products contain animal by-products or other ingredients that are not permissible for Muslims to eat or use on their bodies.

A variety of substances are considered as harmful (haraam) for humans to consume and, therefore, forbidden as per various Quranic verses: 

  • Pork
  • Blood
  • Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but God.
  • Carrion (carcasses of dead animals)
  • An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human).


Where Does Your Food Come From?


Find out at the Global Grocer courtesy of Food and Water Watch.

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