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Organic and Natural: Know Your Labels

August 7, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Dallas 0 Comments

Organic and Natural: Know Your Labels

Finding wholesome and healthful foods for cooking in Dallas is both easier and harder than ever before. Walk down the aisles of your local grocery store and you’ll find more labels that make “natural” claims than those that don’t. Some say, “All-Natural.” Some say, “100% Natural.” Still others claim they are “Made from Natural Ingredients.”

Walk down another aisle, and you’ll find the organic section. You know, the one where the products are two and three times more expensive than similar non-organic products. They, too, claim they are “100% Natural.”

So is there a difference other than price?

In short, yes, a very big difference.

Unmasking the Natural Claim
The food services industry in the U.S. is a strange place right now. There are more obese people than ever before; but, at the same time, the market for healthier natural, local, and organic foods is growing by double digits every year. That confusion is evidenced by the profusion of “natural” products on grocery store shelves. Unfortunately, the terms natural and all-natural can mean whatever the manufacturer wants them to mean. There are no regulations or official definitions that govern products claiming to be natural with the exceptions of meat and poultry. 

For many manufacturers that means additives like trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and alkalis.  Products can also contain pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, MSG, synthetic vitamins, and other non-natural substances.

Sadly, “natural” is only a tool for manufacturers to get you to buy products that are bad for you. Marketers know that, for many consumers, natural means healthy. Again, go to your local grocery, and see how many “natural” potato chips, cookies, corn chips, ice creams, kid’s cereals, and other highly-processed junk foods there are. It will be an eye opening experience.

Organic: Buy or Bypass?
The USDA, on the other hand, regulates organic foods. These foods are produced using methods that do not involve synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, or chemical food additives.

By forgoing these modern, factory-farming techniques, organic products are more expensive to produce than traditional mass-market products.

According to the USDA, a product must be at 95% organic before it can receive their “USDA Organic” label. If a food product doesn’t meet those standards it cannot be called organic.

The organic label by itself doesn’t mean that a certain food is healthy or good for you. It may still have naturally-occurring high levels of fats, carbohydrates, or sugars that may cause or contribute to certain illnesses. And while an organic peach may not have more nutrition than a non-organic one, it doesn’t contain unwanted chemicals either. For that reason alone, many find the expense of organic foods worth the price.

Read Your Labels
The only way to truly know what you are eating is to know your labels. Don’t take a marketing team’s word for what qualifies as “natural” food. Do your own research, and make your own decisions.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Dallas offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Dallas, Texas. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Dallas for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu cannot guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.

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