Always remember their goal is to sell their product, not protect your family and health. Many companies use terms very broadly and there are no standards. Here are a few examples to investigate past the word on the label.
|Image from Creative Commons|
- Natural: By USDA standards, food can only be labeled natural if it contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed. For example, high fructose corn syrup can be considered natural, as long as no synthetic ingredients are used in processing.
- Cruelty Free: different folks define cruel differently and there are no set standards for such a subjective word. It simply means that it won't cause death or harm.
- Free Range: merely means the animal has an opportunity to go outside 51% of the time. It doesn't mean they will.
- Fragrance Free: means that the product has no noticeable scent, which may be as a result of added chemicals that mask the product's scent. Yes, frangrance-free products may actually have more chemicals in them! Fragrance free is not chemical free.
- Biodegradable: The product must "return to nature" when left to the elements. There is no standard as to how long it would take or under what conditions. Additionally, the process to create a biodegradable product is often more harmful to the environment.
With a little understanding behind the motivation of the company, consumers can still make healthy and earth friendly choices.