The terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ in relation to food are often used interchangeably, however, they can be quite different.
Their differences ultimately culminate in regulation.
Many health-conscious consumers increasingly gravitate towards food items labelled “all-natural” or “no artificial ingredients or preservatives” and the like, but these labels can be misleading. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), a “natural” label shouldn’t suggest that the food product is nutritionally superior due to natural processes. An item is able to be labeled natural if:
- it contains no added vitamins, mineral nutrient, artificial flavouring agent or food additive
- it does not have any constituent changed or removed, except for the removal of water
- it its original chemical, biological or physical state has not been significantly altered (See Annex 1 – Minimum Processes and Annex 2 – Maximum Processes)
Use of the word “natural” in a trademark name must also comply with this criteria.
A product may also use the label “natural ingredients” if it contains some natural ingredients, but not all ingredients used qualify as natural. This label has been brought under scrutiny for being used as marketing tool more than anything.
Food products that are labelled “organic”, however, fall under stricter regulations among various steps in the supply chain. The CFIA’s Canada organic logo is intended to only be used on products that have an organic content of 95%+ and certified under the Canada Organic Regime.
- The Organic Standards that must be met include regulations regarding crop production, livestock production, specific production requirements and preparation and handling or organic products
- Organic products that are imported or sold between provinces must meet the Organic Standards
- The standards do not permit GMOs
- Farmers must use organic seed
- Synthetic pesticides are not permitted
- Irradiation is not permitted on food products
- The standards include some regulations for animal welfare