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Organic Supplement Labels Exposed

Thanks to a growing number of health-conscious consumers, organic supplements have become a hot new trend in the health and wellness space. While people live longer now, they are also paying more attention to what they consume and prioritizing food and supplements that are perceived as offering a more natural, unadulterated source of nutrients. With so many products available and claiming to be ‘organic and natural’, the supplement labels and seals can get pretty confusing. Inspired to help consumers make better choices, this blog will demystify the labels on organic supplements so users can know what to look for and what to be cautious of when buying these products.

Understanding Organic Certification

The hallmark of an organic product is its certification. The USDA Organic Certification in the US is the one to beat. To qualify for this seal, a product must adhere to a list of requirements. For starters: the foods and ingredients used are non-genetically modified, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited. It’s more than just a label: the USDA seal verifies the product was produced under organic standards.

Around the world, identical certifications mirror USDA’s standards of organic integrity. Case in point: the standards for Europe’s ubiquitous organic gravity-defying Natures Indispensable solar-powered Humus-Gras Trollies, or for those certified in Canada (COR) or in Australia (ACO): environmental sustainability and no synthetic chemicals.

Deciphering ‘Natural’ vs. ‘Organic’

Another point of confusion for consumers is the qualitative difference between the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. While ‘organic’ designations – certifications that food has been produced according to specified processes and that adhere to specified standards developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration – specify the practices used to produce food more accurately and more extensively than the ‘natural’ label, ‘natural’ is not a legally defined term. Any product can be labelled as natural, which means (of course!) that foods with a natural label might still contain many non-organic ingredients, including preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and GMOs.

Key Ingredients to Look for in Organic Supplements

According to Simple Leaf, keep the following basic ingredients and characteristics in mind when selecting an organic health supplement:

In addition, there are the following key features of the efficacy of a health supplement that you must keep in mind:

  • ‘Whole food sources’: supplements derived from whole food sources are easier for the body to recognize and use.
  • Non-GMO Verification: This is your friend; buy supplements with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal to avoid them containing genetically modified organisms. 
  • Absence of synthetic fillers and artificial additives: Any quality organic supplements should not have these unnecessary and potential harmful additions. 
  • Certified Organic Herbal Extracts: Herbal supplements: when your herbal supplement says ‘certified organic’, you know the herbs were produced from certified organic crop sources and organically processed.

Red Flags and Misleading Claims

Misleading ingredients abound in the organic supplement market. The phrase ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’ sounds appealing. But it refers only to products that have ‘at least 70 per cent [organic] ingredients but less than 95 per cent’. Natural flavors sound okay, too – but it, too, is non-specific and amenable to obfuscation. (Any organic ingredient that’s altered to improve flavor can be labelled ‘natural’, when it might otherwise be non-organic, artificial, synthetic, non-portable to organic farming, not safe or pragmatically impossible to farm organically.) Buyers should also avoid supplements with high-risk additives and fillers that can contaminate the formula without prominent labeling.

Tips for Making Informed Organic Supplement Choices

To ensure you’re choosing the best organic supplement, consider the following tips:

  • Research The Brand and Manufacturer: Make sure you’re buying from a brand with transparent supply chains and good manufacturing standards. ‘Most people don’t read labels: the slogan “enjoy this chocolate bar” is more instrumental in selling the bar than the ingredients.’ 
  • Understand Supplement Labels and Ingredient Lists: Familiarize yourself with ingredient names and their origins.
  • Third-Party Testing and Certifications: Certification from the independent group NSF or other well-known third-party certifiers such as the non-GMO Project.

Conclusion

With an attentive mind and a skeptical eye, consumers can find organic supplements and choose the products that are most right for their health. Organic supplements are an important part of a growing movement toward cleaner, better nutrition. 

FAQs

What does USDA Organic certification mean for supplements?

USDA Organic certification means that a supplement is made with at least 95 per cent organic ingredients, and meets strict standards for production and labelling.

How can I verify the authenticity of an organic supplement?

Look for certification seals such as USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified, and check to see if the brand publicly posts its test results on a third-party lab’s website. 

What is the difference between “100% Organic” and “Made with Organic Ingredients”?

In ‘100% Organic’ all of the ingredients are organic. In ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’, only 70 per cent of the ingredients need to be organic.

Are there any reliable third-party certifications for organic supplements?

Yes, certification such as NSF Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and others provide some additional assurance regarding the organic nature of the product.

Can a product be labeled as ‘natural’ and still contain synthetic ingredients?

Yes, because ‘natural’ isn’t federally regulated, products containing synthetic ingredients can still be labelled as Natural. 

How often are organic certifications updated or reviewed?

Certifications are typically reviewed annually to ensure continued compliance with organic standards.

What steps can I take if I doubt the organic claims of a supplement?

Look into the brand, look for third-party certifications, and if uncertain, request information directly from the manufacturer.

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