Confused by all of the jargon? You’re not alone. Even the
Food and Drug Administration isn’t sure what “natural” means since many foods have
been processed in some way and are no longer the “product of the earth.”
In a bid for more transparency at the grocery store, we
researched the meanings of common terms so you know what you’re buying.
On some nonorganic dairy and meat farms, animals live in
crowded conditions that make them prone to health problems. To maintain herd
health, some farmers will treat them to a regular regiment of preventative
According to Stonyfield, 40% of all antibiotics in the U.S.
are given to farm animals.
Some nonorganic dairy and meat farmers regularly inject
their animals with artificial growth hormones to boost milk production, enhance
breeding and make them bulk up faster. They are prohibited in the European
Union and many other countries, but they are legal in the U.S.
Hens laying eggs labeled cage free are usually inside barns
and are not generally given access to the outdoors. Beak cutting and forced
molting through starvation are permitted, according to the Humane Society.
Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the
USDA in 2013 contained pesticide residues. The Environmental Working Group
singles out a list every year with the lowest pesticide loads, the “clean
fifteen.” This year, it is comprised of avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet
peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit,
cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Farmers whose food is labeled conventionally grown use
fertilizer and pesticides to control weeds and pests, remnants of which are
often found on fruits and vegetables.
The Environmental Working Group also singles out a list
every year with the highest pesticide loads, which has become known as the
“dirty dozen.” This
year, it is comprised of apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes,
celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap
peas and potatoes.
Hens must have access to the outdoors, but there are no
restrictions on the type or duration of access. Beak cutting and forced molting
Free-range meat and poultry
The animals must have access to the outside.
A genetically modified organism is an organism or
microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic
engineering. Unlike cross breeding or hybridization — both of which involve
related species and can happen in nature — genetic engineering breaches
naturally occurring barriers between species to produce something that could
not exist with human intervention. (For example, strawberries injected with
fish genes to protect them from freezing).
High-fructose corn syrup
Derived from corn syrup to which enzymes have been added,
artificially changing some of the glucose to fructose and making it sweeter
than corn syrup and regular table sugar. High-fructose corn syrup can be as
high as 90% fructose and is only commonly available to food manufacturers. (It
is cheaper than regular sugar).
Any food that does not contain added color, artificial
flavors or synthetic substances can define itself as natural, according to the
FDA. But watchdog groups point out that so-called natural food products often
contain hormones, antibiotics and heavily processed ingredients. (For example,
the FDA calls high-fructose corn syrup “natural”).
The most heavily regulated official food system. When the
USDA labels something as organic it means there are no toxic synthetic
pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides or chemical NPK fertilizers used in
producing the food and no antibiotics or growth hormones given to animals.
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