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Over the last few years, consumers have been increasingly focusing on buying unprocessed, pure foods. And, every year, a large number of products hit the shelves. The food industry uses claims which can help us to choose, or leave us confused. Here are some common marketing terms, and what they really mean.
According to the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) “a food or ingredient labelled as natural should not contain, or ever have contained, an added vitamin, mineral nutrient, artificial flavoring agent or food additive.” It is to be noted that no part of the food or ingredient can be removed or modified in the food or ingredient for it to be labelled as natural (except for the removal of water). If their physical, chemical or biological state has been altered, the foods or ingredients must not be labelled as “natural”.
It is important to highlight that certain additives, vitamins and mineral nutrients can be derived from natural sources. These can therefore sometimes be considered natural ingredients when they’re added to a food. It is acceptable to consider this food as containing “natural ingredients”. However, the processes used to produce the additive shouldn’t significantly modify its original, chemical or biological state. According to the CFIA “while the ingredient can be described as “natural”, the food itself cannot, since it contains an added component.”
The CFIA has adopted a provisional policy that allows the use of the term “local” for foods produced in the province or territory where they are sold. The term “local” can also be used for foods sold in other provinces within a 50km range of the originating province or territory.
Products containing 95% or more organic ingredients are the only ones that can be labeled “organic” or sport the logo “Canada Organic”. According to the CFIA, labels such as “organically grown,” “organically reared,” “organically produced” or all other similar labels, including abbreviations and symbols, are considered the same as “organic” and must therefore conform to the same requirements. In the case of products containing several ingredients, the ones that are organic must be identified as such in the ingredients list.
The term “artisan made” describes products that are made in small quantities. This term doesn’t apply to a particular type of food, but rather to a method of production that is considered traditional and basic. Compared to other products of the same type, this method of production is based on manual labor with a limit on the use of automated machines. The use of additives and preservatives like vinegar, salt, sugar and lemon juice is acceptable. It is to be noted that the processes of heat treatment and sterilization are acceptable for food safety purposes.
As for the terms “true,” “real” and “genuine,” these are allegations that can be used to describe the composition of a product or its ingredients. It is prohibited to use these terms for foods or ingredients that are imitations or substitutes.
A natural diet is without doubt a better diet because when you transform a food, you risk altering its nutritional value. It is best to focus on short ingredient lists, with simple and recognizable ingredients. Try to also avoid pesticides (for some foods), additives, and artificial colors and flavorings. For more information, read the article 5 Basics of Clean Eating.