The topic today is all about organic products.
They’re everywhere, and similar to the fat free phenomena of the early 2000’s where everyone thought that fat was awful for you, the same conclusion can be drawn for organic products except this time on the opposite end of the spectrum. People think that if something is labeled organic that it has to be good for you. I’m not judging you, it’s just a lack of education about the organic labels that has led to this.
Wait, I thought all organic labels meant the same thing? Not necessarily.
Let me explain.
There are a few different categories of “organic foods”. Let’s take a look at what they are:
When you’re shopping for organic foods in the U.S., look for the “USDA Organic” seal. Only foods that are 95 to 100 percent organic (and GMO-free) can use the USDA Organic label.
100% Organic –
Foods that are completely organic or made with 100% organic ingredients may display the USDA seal.
Foods that contain at least 95% organic ingredients may display the USDA seal.
Made with organic ingredients –
Foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients will not display the USDA seal but may list specific organic ingredients on the front of the package.
Contains organic ingredients –
Foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients will not display the USDA seal but may list specific organic ingredients on the information panel of the package.
I don’t know about you but it seems to me that there are a ton of ways that food distributors can loosely play with the word “organic”.
The scariest one, in my opinion, is the “Made with organic ingredients”. Food distributors can list the organic ingredients on the front of their packaging. While they are not allowed to use the USDA Organic seal, many times seeing the word organic in any capacity can lead to a purchase. The issue with this is that there are still 30% of the ingredients that can be complete trash.
There are restrictions on what ingredients you can put in with an item labeled “made with organic ingredients”. But, the ability to get around this if you are a food company seems pretty relaxed. While the chances of getting caught as seem to be pretty low.
The FDA gets straight to the point here, and while I do understand where they are coming from it still does not give any clarity at all about the other 30% of the ingredients.
For example a “made with organic ingredients” granola/protein/power bar could be 70% awesome but have one of those asinine proprietary blends that could be 10 different artificial sweeteners.
Let’s look at a couple of examples of “made with organic ingredients” items or even those labeled with the USDA Organic seal.
Don’t get me wrong —
I splurge on one of these at least once a month. But, lets not kid ourselves. Just because it says “Organic” shouldn’t make it synonymous with “good for you”. The last picture may be a little extreme in calling all of those products “crap” after all, it’s not like you’re cracking open a can of spam and washing it down with Dr. Pepper.
I’m in no way shape or form advocating against organic foods. I just want you to be aware that there is a huge difference from the USDA 100% Organic and the USDA Organic products compared with the “made with organic ingredients” or “contains organic ingredients” products.
We’ve covered our organic bases, now, let’s move to another term that doesn’t hold water once you break it down: “All Natural” or “Natural” foods/products.
Does it sound good and harmless? Sure.
The food industry is in this to make money, not to educate us, the consumer, on what is actually healthy. The FDA has a weak definition of what “Natural” or “All Natural” actually means, see their comments below.
I found this excerpt from an article on the Lexicon of Food to be very relevant and it also confirmed my thoughts on the “All Natural” front,
“However, due to the lack of a legal definition set by the FDA, the term “All Natural” can often be misleading. In the FDA’s informal policy, the food label natural is defined as “nothing artificial or synthetic (including colors regardless of source) is included in, or has been added to, the product that would not normally be expected to be there.” Due to this loose definition of what can be considered “natural”, foods are often labeled as such for marketing purposes when in fact, they are highly processed or contain additives. Most importantly, the label does not address any of the chemical inputs, fertilizers or insecticides that may have been used during production of any ingredients in the product, or if any of the ingredients were genetically engineered.”
Again, not ALL products labeled like this are awful. But, this was written more to make you think twice before you take a box or container at face value.