Most of us would prefer to buy “natural” food products, assuming this means pure and unadulterated; just the way nature intended it. It’s a natural assumption, but it could be wrong.
Here is how the USDA defines it: “A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).”
It sounds simple enough, but such things as growth hormones and antibiotics added to animal feed can come from natural sources, and therefore are “natural.” One “natural” product additive, Castoreum, used as a natural vanilla and raspberry flavoring, is an extraction of glands and secretions from beavers. Yes, you read that right; those furry aquatic mammals that cut down trees and build dams are a natural ingredient in some food items.
Unfortunately for consumers natural doesn’t mean much. For example, high fructose corn syrup, which is commonly added to beverages and is responsible for some of the obesity problem in this country, can be labeled “natural” because it is derived from corn (notwithstanding the fact the corn may have been genetically modified).
Organic, on the other hand, at least means something, but even that label comes with a caution. There is 100% organic, there is organic; which means the product is at least 95% organic, and then there is “made with organic ingredients,” which means the ingredients must be at least 70% organic.
This all makes a good case for starting your own garden.