Organic or GMO? Experts explain food jargon | Local news

As Oklahoma residents begin a new year with new nutritional goals and eating habits, they are faced with an overwhelming amount of diet terms and food jargon. Experts from the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University have clarified some of the more common references.


The difference between conventional (non-organic) and organic foods is the way they are grown and made. While both foods follow regulations and guidelines to make them equally safe to consume, organic food regulations are different.

“Organically grown foods rely on the use of natural substances and methods throughout the food production process, while conventionally grown foods allow the additional use of approved synthetic substances and methods” said Renee Albers-Nelson, milling and baking specialist at FAPC. “Because there are many opinions about what is natural, the United States Department of Agriculture created the National Organic Program, a federal regulatory program to develop and enforce federal standards for organic products sold in states. -United. “

The USDA NOP inspects farms and food manufacturing facilities to approve their use of the USDA Organic seal. There are four types of USDA organic claims that can be made, and they are defined by the USDA NOP as follows:

100% organic – used to label any product that contains 100% organic ingredients.

Organic – any product containing at least 95% organic ingredients; up to 5% of the ingredients can be non-organic.

Made with an organic item – the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.

Specific Organic Ingredient Lists – Specific organic ingredients may be listed on the ingredient declaration for products containing less than 70% organic content.

Gluten free

In August 2013, the United States Food and Drug Administration released an official definition of gluten-free. Regulations must be fully followed for a product to indicate gluten free on the label.

Gluten free is a food that is naturally gluten free or that does not contain any ingredient:

A grain containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelled or a cross of these grains), or

Derived from a grain containing gluten that has not been processed to remove gluten (wheat flour), or

Derived from a grain containing gluten and which has been processed to remove gluten (wheat starch) if the use of this ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million or more of gluten in the food.

In addition, any unavoidable presence of gluten in food should be less than 20 parts per million.

“Meeting gluten-free requirements is important for people with celiac disease, a life-threatening condition if they consume gluten,” Albers-Nelson said. “Label claims such as gluten-free, gluten-free, gluten-free, and gluten-free are acceptable as long as the FDA’s gluten-free requirements are met. The inclusion of gluten-free on a label is voluntary. People with celiac disease should read and study the statements on food ingredients.

Additionally, Albers-Nelson said the term gluten free is not a recognized term by the FDA and does not have an official definition.

“This does not mean that a food is gluten free or safe for consumers with celiac disease,” she said.

genetically modified organism

According to the FDA, GMO stands for genetically modified organism and is used to describe a plant, animal or microorganism whose genetic material, DNA, has been altered by technology. Modification involves the transfer of specific DNA from one organism to another.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the FDA are responsible for ensuring that biotech products are safe as food for humans. and animals as well as the environment.

With the passage of the National Biotech Food Disclosure Law in 2018, effective January 1, 2022, manufacturers, importers and retailers with annual revenues of $ 2.5 million or more will be required to disclose to the consumer whether a food or ingredient is derived from biotechnology. The USDA defines a bioengineered food as a food containing detectable genetic material modified by laboratory techniques. A bioengineered food cannot be created by conventional breeding or be found in the wild. The approved label disclosure methods are guided by the NBFDS.

USP verified

The US Pharmacopeial Convention was founded in 1820 in Washington, DC, as a nonprofit scientific organization that develops and disseminates quality standards for drugs and other related substances such as dietary supplements. He has no law enforcement powers. USP Verified is a voluntary program for manufacturers. Audits are performed and if a product receives the USP Verified mark, the following requirements are met:

The manufacturer follows FDA Good Manufacturing Practices.

The product contains the ingredients listed on the label in the correct amounts and potency.

Does not contain harmful contaminants.

Will decompose and be released in the body within a specified period of time.

Allergen free

The description “allergen free” is not a recognized FDA statement and has no regulatory basis. Use of this term implies that the food does not contain any of the eight allergens listed under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act – milk, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. In addition, sesame will be added to the list of main allergens as of January 1, 2023.

“Consumers can be allergic to many other ingredients or foods,” Albers-Nelson said. “To suggest that a food is ‘allergen-free’ is good marketing, but too broad a statement to make, implying that anything present will not cause an allergic reaction in anyone. “


The Paleo Diet refers to the Paleolithic, the “Stone Age” or the period in cave man history. The diet theory is that humans have strayed too far from what they assume their human ancestors ate – meat from hunted animals, fish, and vegetables – and the result is an increase in chronic disease. The followers of the paleo diet do not consume grains, dairy products, legumes and sugar. Instead, they focus on meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and healthy fats.


A ketogenic diet, also known as keto, encourages consumption of high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in body tissue in the form of glucose. When glucose availability is not present or very low, ketogenesis is initiated to provide an alternative energy source from fat in the form of ketones. Ketogenesis reduces the body’s need to stimulate fat and glucose storage.

“In the short term, the keto diet is effective for weight loss,” Albers-Nelson said. “But it’s not considered a long-lasting diet due to health concerns.”

Vegetarian vs. vegan

Other frequently used food terms include vegetarian, which is a person who excludes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, insects, or animal by-products, such as gelatin or broths, from their diet. animal fats. A vegan diet is a continuation of the vegetarian diet. Vegans don’t consume dairy products and eggs, nor do they use animal by-products for food, clothing, or other purposes.

Janice Hermann, OSU Extension Specialist in Nutritional Sciences, said understanding terms and labels benefits the consumer.

“Using the Nutrition Facts label can help you make healthier food and drink choices,” she said. “The Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list are the safest and most important labels to read and are regulated by the FDA. “

OSU Extension’s health and nutrition specialists are available to answer food questions and offer advice that supports a healthy lifestyle.

About Alma Ackerman

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