Guide to Organic Food Labels

Look for the "USDA Organic" label. Onlly foods that are organic or 100% organic can use the USDA Organic Seal. Labels on other foods with various levels of organic ingredients may display any of the following labels:

  • 100% Organic
    Single ingredient, such as fruit, vegetable, meat, milk and cheese (excludes water & salt)
  • Organic
    Multiple ingredient foods that are 95% to 100% organic
  • Made with Organic Ingredients
    70% of ingredients are organic
  • Contains Organic Ingredients
    Less than 70% of ingredients are organic

Natural vs. Organic

The terms “natural” and “organic” are by no means interchangeable. To put it bluntly, it’s a matter of "Definitely True" versus "Possibly True". Use of the term “organic” on food packaging is US government-regulated. On the other hand, the truth of the word “natural” hinges entirely on the integrity and honesty of the manufacturer.

Understanding Natural vs Organic

Food packaging today is full of references to “nature” and “natural”. Even some products that are obviously quite heavily processed will tout natural flavorings or ingredients.

Now that “organic” foods are becoming increasingly available,
the apparent similarity of these two words can create confusion for the consumer – and, unfortunately, in some cases that confusion is intentional.

All Natural Popcorn - 12 Types of Gourmet Popping Corn

Is It Really All Natural?

“Natural” can be applied to almost anything that does
not come out of a laboratory, as well as some things that do.
In marketing, the term "natural" tends to imply that a product is free of additives or preservatives.

Currently, there are no restrictions on how this term is used. Be aware that certain manufacturers may stretch the “natural truth” of their products to fulfill their sales goals.




Organic Label Standards

Legally, the term “organic” can only be applied to foods that pass certain regulated standards.
The USDA has specific standards for what constitutes an organic food: it must be produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, irradiation, genetic engineering, or growth hormones.
[ USFDA Food Labeling Guide ]

Turn the Package Around

You can find plenty of natural, but not certified organic, products that are healthy and good for you. However, it’s always best to read the ingredients, nutritional information and other product details carefully before buying.
Helpful Tip: Develop a list of natural brands that you know and trust.