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When you’re out shopping or shopping online for certified organic products, it’s important to check the labels. This is to ensure you know exactly what it is, you’re buying and what you’re buying is not potentially harmful to your health. The problem is reading labels can get confusing with all the different terms like organic, certified organic or natural.

Hopefully, we can shed some light on the terms and the differences between them that will help you make an informed decision when your purchasing products.

What is Organic?

Organic in most cases, when talking about food, assumes that some care has been taken to try and make sure food is free from GMO (Genetically modified organisms), chemical fertilizers, pesticides and artificial hormones or antibiotics.

When we talk about organic farming or organic agriculture, most times, this relates to sustainable gardening methods as in methods known in permaculture. To find out more about permaculture, head over to our blog, A quick guide to sustainable gardening through permaculture.

First of all, there is a massive difference between something being labelled “organic” vs something being labelled “certified organic”. The term ‘organic’, under Australian law is not regulated, meaning business and/or products are not required to follow or abide any specific regulation or standard in order to use the “organic’ label.

Secondly, just because something is labelled organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free from nasty pesticides and GMO.

The trick is to always look for the certified organic and a trusted certification logo from an approved and accredited certifier like ACO.

What is Certified Organic?

Certified organic means the produce or product is free from nasty pesticides, herbicides, unnatural antibiotics or added hormones.

Produce must meet certain requirements as per the Australian Certified Organic Standard, in order to be certified as organic. Organic producers must comply with the standard in order to be recognised as having an organic product.

This can include the farming methods followed when producing or growing the produce.

For livestock to be certified organic, most times you’ll notice the words like “free range”, “grain fed” and so on, on the labels. That usually means they we raised to strict standards of acceptable humane living and include feeding them non-GMO feed that factors in water efficiency and biodiversity-friendly. This also includes no added hormones or antibiotics.

Most things like food, drink, fibre, skincare or cosmetics can apply to be certified organic.

Certified organic also means the food process goes through routine and random audits, carried out by certifying bodies to ensure the producers and business are adhering to the standards. Visit Australian Certified Organic Standard for more info the requirements of the standard.

Visit the ACO FAQ page for a great list of FAQ for more info on certified organic.

What is Natural?

When things are labelled natural, it’s kind of hard to determine if it’s even organic. It’s hard because the term ‘natural’ is not really policed in Australia or the US, unlike certified organic.

There is a general public assumption around the term to mean “nothing artificial or synthetic (including additives regardless of source) has been added to food, produce or product.

Even though natural might sound ok, it really doesn’t tell you anything about whether the product contains any harmful ingredients or additives like GMOs.

Certifying bodies both here in Australia and the US are working towards the need to provide a legal definition and regulation around using the term natural but have yet to provide one.

In Conclusion

So in the interest of good health, it’s always best to check labels for certifications from reputable certifying bodies to ensure you buying something that won’t potentially harm you or is not good for you.

If you’re unsure and want to do some of your own research and due diligence, check out ACO database for organic and non-organic products and ingredients.

It might seem more work than usual but in this day and age, you can’t rely on food producers alone to look after your health and the health of your family.  If it’s to be it’s up to me.