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Main Difference – Natural vs Organic Food

It is generally very challenging to identify natural and organic foods. ‘Natural food’ is a term that is extensively used in food labeling and marketing process with a range of meanings, most of which are unclear. Natural food is frequently assumed to suggest foods that are minimally processed and all ingredients are derived from natural products. However, natural foods are not regulated by the food system. In contrast, organic foods have no toxic synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or chemical inorganic fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are used to animals. Organic foods are also the most seriously regulated items by the food system. This is the main difference between natural and organic food.

What is Natural Food

“Natural foods” are minimally processed food that does not contain any food additives including hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colors, or flavorings. In other words, “natural” direct that the food does not contain any synthetic artificial ingredients. However, this term is often misused on labels and in advertisements. Although, “natural” is applied to many foods it does not have a consistent meaning. These foods are rarely governed by specific food laws and regulations.

Main Difference - Natural vs Organic

The term “natural” can be applied to many foods.

What is Organic Food

Production and consumption of organic products are rising rapidly in the world. Organic foods guarantee that food is free from toxic synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic producers in the world are subjected to difficult publicized certification examinations by third-party assessors to confirm and certify that they are producing and processing 100% organic products. Therefore, organic products are more healthy and nutritious food compared to any other food products in the market, including natural foods. All organic foods are categorized as natural foods, but all natural foods cannot be categorized as organic foods.

Difference Between Natural and Organic Food

Vegetables from organic farming

Difference Between Natural and Organic Food

Natural and organic food may have substantially different sensory properties and applications. These differences may include,


There is no any clear definition for “natural foods”. But natural foods are generally known as minimally processed fresh foods without any synthetic food ingredient.

Organic foods are produced by organic farming. The main purposes of organic farming are maintaining cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that promote utilization of natural resources, encourage ecological balance and protect biodiversity.

Natural vs Organic Categorization

All natural foods cannot be considered as organic foods.

All organic foods can be considered as natural foods.

Food Regulation

Natural foods are rarely governed by the food regulation system in the world.

Organic food is the most heavily regulated food system in the world. For example, in the United States, organic production is carried out in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

Guidelines and Requirements

No artificial flavors and colors, no artificial preservatives, no irradiated products and no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered as guidelines for the natural food manufacturing process. Normally, these guidelines are established by the manufacturing company, and they are not assessed by the third party.

No artificial flavors and colors, no artificial preservatives, no irradiated products and no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are considered as requirements for organic food manufacturing process. Normally, these requirements are established by the food regulation body such as USDA, CODEX etc. and they are verified by the third party.

Product Misuse

Natural food manufacturers frequently paste a “natural” label on foods containing heavily processed ingredients because it is usually not regulated by the law.  

Organic food manufacturers cannot misguide consumers because it is usually regulated by the law. 

Safe and Healthy Food

Natural food is less safe, and less healthy compared to organic food.

Organic food is safer and healthier compared to natural food.


Natural foods have less demand compared to organic food.

Organic foods have more demand compared to natural food.

In conclusion, natural and organic foods are derived from different agricultural practices and they are intended to be free from any synthetic artificial ingredients and are safe for human consumption. But it is difficult to guarantee that natural foods meet these quality parameters compare to organic foods.  In addition, they have slightly different sensory and physical properties. However, it is not always easy to differentiate organic food from natural foods.

Difference Between Natural and Organic Food - infographic


Food Labeling: Nutrient Content Claims, General Principles, Petitions, Definition of Terms, 56 Fed. Reg. 60,421, 60,466 (Nov. 27, 1991) (codified at 21 C.F.R. pts. 5, 101, and 105), available at

Organic certification. European Commission: Agriculture and Rural Development. 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2014.

Weaver, A. (2014). “Natural” Foods: Inherently Confusing. Journal of Corporation Law, 39(3), 657-674.

Rosen, Joseph D. (May 2010). A Review of the Nutrition Claims Made by Proponents of Organic Food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety 9 (3): 270–277.

Image Courtesy: 

“Supermarkt” by  Linsensuppe (assumed -based on copyright claims). -Own work assumed (based on copyright claims). (GFDL) via Commons

“Ecologically grown vegetables” by Elina Mark – Own work.  (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons