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A Lesson on Labels

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Product labels can be confusing, particularly since new ones seem to pop up every day. Here are some tips to help you navigate the label maze and make informed purchasing decisions.

USDA Organic
Products bearing this label must be made with 95% organic ingredients. They must also be made without the use of:

•    Toxic and persistent pesticidesusda organic seal
•    Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers
•    GMOs
•    Synthetic growth hormones
•    Antibiotics
•    Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
•    Irradiation
•    Sewage sludge

When it comes to organic produce, look for five-digit PLU (price look-up) codes that begin with the number 9.

Made with Organic
Products bearing this label must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.

It’s easy to confuse organic products for ones labeled “natural.” After all, organic products are minimally processed and are made mostly, and in many cases exclusively, from ingredients straight from nature.

It’s important to remember, though, that organic products and natural ones are not the same. There are no FDA or USDA rules governing the use of the “natural” label, making it difficult to know how ingredients in natural products were grown and processed. So, if you choose to buy natural products, be sure to read the fine print.

It’s great to support local farmers and local economies. Just keep in mind that the term “local” is unregulated, so no guarantees can be made about where local products come from or how they are grown and processed. You’re best bet? Choose locally grown organic products. Local and organic: they’re better together.

Genetically modified products are not required by law to be labeled, so they can be difficult to identify. One helpful trick is to know which product ingredients are often genetically modified. If you see any of the following ingredients on the labels of products you consume, and the ingredient is not labeled as non-GMO or organic, it is likely genetically modified.

•    Corn syrup, starch, oil, meal, gluten
•    Soy lecithin, protein, flour, isolate and isoflavone
•    Sugar (unless it is made from cane)
•    Vegetable oil
•    Cottonseed oil

rBST or rGBH
rBST and rGBH are synthetic growth hormones that can be found in some non-organic dairy products. These substances are prohibited for use in organic products.