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Understanding Food Labels: Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, and Natural

👤 🕔 March 4, 2014

Imagine grocery shopping in a simpler time—strolling the market for your produce, meats, necessary ingredients, and treats before heading home to cook dinner with the family. If you’re going grocery shopping in 2014, it’s much more exciting. You may be purchasing gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free, vegan,  or ‘natural’ products. With so many different diet categories, it’s important to know the difference in meanings between organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and natural. We’re here to help!


Organic typically means made without pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals.

  • The USDA organic seal can be found on products made with 100% organic ingredients
  • Organic labels are also on products containing at least 95% certified organic ingredients with the USDA organic seal.
  • If you’re purchasing something that says, “made with organic ingredients,” it has been made with 70 percent organic ingredients. These products will not receive the USDA organic seal.

Non-GMO-projectNon-GMO (Genetically Modified)

As people continue avoiding foods that have been genetically modified, well-educated people have defended both sides of GMO food. While some worry tampering with DNA can create risky results, proponents for genetically engineered food feel the food is regulated for safety and helps the environment.

Due to testing limitations, “GMO free” and related terms are not defended legally or scientifically due to testing limitations.

Gluten SealGluten-Free

The FDA rules state that products claiming to be gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. If you wish to label your product “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten,” the same criteria must be met.


Last but not least on today’s list of labels, “natural.” Surprisingly, the FDA has never defined “natural,” so it is freely used by any product—even heavily processed foods. We suggest using your best judgement and checking out the ingredients before putting a “natural” product in your cart!

Now you are at least armed with some information when it comes time to grocery shop. If you are looking for help when you dine out, download Alex’s Gluten Free Spots to your iPhone today for gluten free restaurant ratings and information.