Due to deceptive advertising, many consumers have been misled to believe “natural” food is the same or even better for you and the environment than organic is.

“All-natural” and “natural” are among the most commonly used claims on new food products. But many products labeled as “natural” are filled with stuff you can’t find in nature – including chemical additives, high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered ingredients.

For example, some yogurts, chips and cooking oils labeled as “natural” or “all-natural” contain genetically engineered ingredients.  Many “natural” sodas and granola bars contain high fructose corn syrup and some ice creams labeled “all natural” may be made from cows treated with growth hormones.

It’s no wonder consumers are confused.

“All-natural” and “natural” are among the most commonly used claims on new food products. But many products labeled as “natural” are filled with stuff you can’t find in nature.

Transparency is vital 

Unlike these so-called “natural” foods, organic food is held to tough standards enforced by the USDA. Certified organic foods must be free of toxic persistent pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, hormones and antibiotics.

So, why aren’t “natural” foods held to similar standards?

One reason is that neither the federal Food and Drug Administration nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an official definition for which foods are allowed to put “natural” claims on their packaging.

Another is a lack of enforcement. The FDA has sent warnings to some of the companies that are stretching limits of “natural” claims, but it is also charged with regulating 80 percent of the food supply and has said it has bigger fish to fry.

The result of this lack of definition and enforcement is that many products claim to be “natural” when there is nothing natural about them.

Choosing wisely

In contrast, organic farmers must work in sync with the environment. Their farming practices help improve water quality, keep carbon locked up in our soil and reduce our exposure to dangerous pesticides. And organic farmers must meet strict animal health and welfare standards, including ensuring animals have year-round access to outdoors, refusing to use antibiotics and growth hormones, raising animals on certified organic land, and feeding animals 100 percent organic.

If  you want food that was made the way Mother Nature intended, then go organic – the real natural.