What Does ‘Organic’ or ‘Natural’ Really Mean?

Plate of apricots

Having become vegetarian half a year ago, making sure the products that I put in my shopping basket are what they say they are has become super important! And while labelling in France isn’t always clear (they are yet to implement a system that indicates whether a product is suitable for vegetarians – I know right?!), it’s also left me stumped in the fresh fruit and vegetables aisle.

What does organic, or natural, really mean?

Are they the same thing? And if not, what are the differences?

I stumbled across this infographic this evening while browsing Take Part, (a branch of the Participant Media tree, the bringers of Food Inc. and Pivot TV where they host hitRECord, to name drop a few awesome projects), that divvies up the differences between the two – and what both represent.

“Organic” is certified

The term ‘organic’ covers all plant- and animal-derived produce that is grown without the use of pesticides and genetic modification. It is often certified, and it is a term protected by law. Organic certification bodies include:

It’s worth noting that the term ‘organic’ does not guarantee humane treatment or slaughter for animals in terms of food products, nor does it rule out animal testing for beauty products.

‘Natural’ can mean anything

And natural? Natural means absolutely nothing in terms of labelling legislation. It’s amazing to be armed with this knowledge and then go shopping – you’ll find beauty and food products all boasting about their natural ingredients, but that could include anything from water to uranium.

It’s quite shocking that manufacturers are able to boast that their product is “all natural” and not need to prove it, even in a court of law. Then again, it wasn’t too long ago that pharmaceutical companies were flogging their wares under the pretence that they cured pretty much anything!

If this provides any kind of lesson, it’s that we still need to stick to reading the list of ingredients rather than trusting packaging jargon.


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