Like many of you, I read the labels of anything I spend my hard earned money on but I started to get consumer burnout when it came to understanding and seeing all the different labels and claims companies were making to make their product more attractive to consumers. In many instances the rise in informed consumers has triggered a frenzy around increased labeling and stretching the truth around product ingredients. Here are a few misleading claims that the public deserves to clearly understand.
“Cruelty-Free” and “Not Tested on Animals”
You have likely seen the bunny on a label stating the product was not tested on animals but here is the truth on what this really means.
• This only applies to the finished product. Most testing occurs at the ingredients level and may mean that the company could contract with other companies to do the testing.
• The only way to know a company is 100% cruelty free is if the company has been certified by the Leaping Bunny Program, which requires that no new animal testing can be used in ANY phase of the product development.
Natural vs. Organic Labels
When you read products that claim to be “all natural” you often assume these products are minimally processed and as close to its natural origin as possible however the FDA and the USDA do NOT regulate products labeled “natural”. This means that a product with a “natural” label could be made up of heavily processed ingredients. Organic refers not only to the food itself, but also to how it is produced and processed. Organic is the most heavily regulated food system and guarantees no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical NPK (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K)) fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals. Organic producers and processors also are subject to rigorous certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a standardized and trustworthy way.
Click here to learn more about organic food labeling including what it means for a product to carry the label of 100% Organic, Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, and Products with less than 70% Organic Ingredients.
Organic vs Non-GMO Project Verified
GMOs are prohibited from certified organic products, which means farmers are not allowed to grow produce from GMO seeds, their animals can’t eat GMO feed, and organic food producers can’t use GMO ingredients.
Certified organic farms and facilities follow a site-specific organic system plan and are inspected annually by third party organic
inspectors to ensure compliance. In order to fulfill the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must prove that they aren’t using GMOs in any part of their production and are utilizing approved practices to protect their products or crops.
All USDA certified organic produce, grains, meats, and processed foods do not allow the use of GMOs.
The Non-GMO Project has a strict set of standards and guidelines, including multi-level testing, ensures that companies and producers are avoiding GMOs in all aspects of production. However, The Non GMO Project Seal does not claim products to be “GMO free” because the contamination risks to seeds, crops, and ingredients are too high. However, they’re the only organization offering independent verification of testing for GMO products in the US and Canada.
SLN’s Take Home Message
Using products that have the USDA Certified Organic Label AND Non-GMO Project Seal demonstrates the most effective way to reduce you toxic load. Products with the USDA Certified Organic label alone is the second best choice followed by the Non-GMO Project Seal.