Natural vs. organic: What’s the difference?

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A public interest group has filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture saying that Target stores have misled consumers into thinking some of its conventional food items are organic.

The Cornucopia Institute says Target advertised Silk soymilk in national newspapers with the word “organic” pictured on the carton’s label, but the product’s manufacturer, Dean Foods, had shifted their products away from organics.

Cases like this are becoming more common as major retailers have been accused of blurring the line between organic and conventional foods by calling some foods “natural” even when it hasn’t been produced according to strict federal organic standards.

“Major food processors have recognized the meteoric rise of the organic industry, and profit potential, and want to create what is in essence ‘organic light,’ taking advantage of the market cachet but not being willing to do the heavy lifting required to earn the valuable USDA organic seal,” said Mark A. Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at Cornucopia.

Cornacopia says that consumer surveys have shown that shoppers don’t know the difference between natural and organic labels – and that retailers are taking advantage of that by duping shoppers into thinking they’re buying organic when they’re not.

Click here to view federal organic certification criteria.