Do you ever wander down the aisles of your favorite natural products store wondering what the labels mean? Finally, here are the answers you’ve been searching for.

True or False?

  1. Organic produce is completely free of pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

  2. “Natural” and “organic” mean basically the same thing.

  3. The term “free-range” indicates that farm animals have ample space outside to move about freely.

  4. “Cruelty-free” means that no animal testing was used in the making of a product.

Answers

  1. False. Because of pesticide drift from other farms and similar unmanageable circumstances, “organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues,” according to the National Organics Standards Board. Still, organic food has been found in recent studies to contain significantly fewer contaminants than conventional food.

  2. False. According to Monica Engebretson, senior program coordinator of the Animal Protection Institute in Sacramento, California, “natural foods contain no artificial ingredients and are only minimally processed.” But this does not mean natural foods are grown without pesticides, as organic foods are.

  3. False. The term “free-range” as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture refers to animals who have been allowed access to the outside. “No other criteria—such as the size of the range, the amount of space individual animals must have, or animal care and handling—are required,” says Engebretson.

  4. False. No federal law determines the criteria for claiming “cruelty-free,” “against animal testing,” or “not tested on animals.” Although most manufacturers wouldn’t lie on a label, the only way to really be certain is to do research and look for products approved by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (www.leapingbunny.org), according to Michelle Thew, CEO of the Animal Protection Institute.