Grocery shoppers have a multitude of options to choose from when it comes to clean eating. It can be overwhelming to discern what’s behind labels like “all-natural”, “non-GMO” or “organic” in a world where FDA approval amounts to very little. What do these certifications actually mean?
Foods that have the “natural” label have the least regulation. According to the USDA, the only qualification for allegedly natural products is that they do not contain artificial ingredients. The artificial ingredients in question are usually chemical sweeteners or preservatives, such as sorbitol, aspartame, ETDA, sulphites, and more.
Products carrying the “Non-GMO Verified” stamp are audited by The Non-GMO Project. Genetic makeup is the only factor evaluated by the organization.
Non-GMO products are not always organic, but organic products are always non-GMO!
This is because the USDA Organic label has more regulations. The USDA approves something as organic if it is natural, non-GMO, does not use synthetic pesticides, and follows environmentally friendly farming practices. There’s also a higher standard to be met during the manufacturing process.
The USDA is widely considered to be the ultimate authority on organic products. But not even their label can assure consumers that what they’re buying is nontoxic. In fact, only 95% of a product has to meet the requirements of the organic label, leaving 5% of what we purchase ambiguous. Food and care products with the USDA organic label could legally contain glyphosate, GMO’s, carcinogenic pesticides, or trace amounts of other contaminants.
There are also plenty of companies who provide 100% organic products without a label. The organic certification process is time consuming and expensive, making it inaccessible to small-scale operations. Labels aren’t everything.
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a game of roulette, though! Consumer research is the most important tool for making safe, healthy purchases. Thankfully there are lots of resources available to help.
EWG (Environmental Working Group) is an organization dedicated to product transparency. They have a search engine called SkinDeep that lists the ingredients in thousands of different care products like lotions, sunscreens, soaps, etc. EWG also has an app that breaks down nutrient profiles, added chemicals, and ethical manufacturing practices using a “Food Score” system.
Shopping at a local market is another way to find better quality foods.
Human Garage likes to use muscle testing (and personal research) to determine if a food or product is safe. Our belief is that we can rely on the body’s innate wisdom to make decisions. Once you learn your own body’s “yes” and “no” responses, it gives you the freedom to make intuitive calls without needing to rely on an outside source.