Difference Between Organic and Natural

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Many users of organic products seem to use the terms organic and natural interchangeably. I'm not a stickler for semantics, but those words actually have slightly different meanings.

Natural ingredients have nature as the ingredients' source. They are unaltered, untreated and not artificial. On the other hand, ingredients labeled organic have previously been certified by an organic certification body. This certifying body has ensured that the organic ingredients were cultured without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other synthetic chemicals like plant hormones or livestock feed additives.

In short, an organic ingredient is a natural ingredient but a natural ingredient may not be organic, since it could have been derived from methods that were not certified organic. The problem is that some unscrupulous companies freely label their products as being organic, even without proper certification. This propagates the labeling confusion among consumers.

Even for products certified organic there are three different levels, causing further confusion.

1. "100% organic" label

This is for products composed entirely of certified organic ingredients.

2. "Organic" label

This is for products with at least 95% certified organic ingredients.

3. "Made with organic ingredients" label

This is for products with at least 70% certified organic ingredients.

Products with the above labels can also display the logo of their approval certification body. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients can not display these labels, but can merely mention it in their ingredient statement.

The differences in the organic labels due to the violating organic compositions are apparently subtle, especially to a casual user. In particular the "Made with organic ingredients" label for 70% organic composition, blurs the distinction between organic and natural. This further propagate the confusion between organic and natural products.