Natural, ecological, biological … what is the difference?

We are currently going to the market, to an herbalist or to any type of food establishment and we find an overwhelming variety of denominations, most of them alluding to food properties. Among them, especially we find more and more the declarations referring to “ organic food ”, “ totally natural ”, etc., and before this the doubts assail us: what does each of them allude to? Is the same “ecological” as “natural”? What does the name “bio” in a food mean?, Etc., and the list of doubts is long.

ecological, biological

Differences between biological, eco, ecological and bio

Well, I must tell you that the term ” biological ” is not the same as the term “natural”, and that the terms “biological, eco, ecological, bio” are synonyms that designate identical statements in a product. In addition, it is necessary to know that each and every one of these declarations of properties of a food are regulated in most cases by the Legislation and this case of the “biological” and “natural” declarations is one of them.

On the one hand, we must distinguish between 2 types of statements, some concerning healthy claims and others regarding nutritional claims of food . The first group (health claims) are all those that affirm, suggest or imply that there is a relationship between a food or any of its constituents, and health. For example, they can be assigned to those foods whose iodine content is a significant amount (also established by the Legislation) and may be accompanied by the statement “iodine contributes to normal energy metabolism” as established in Regulation (EU) No. 432/2012 .


Those of the second group (nutritional declarations of food) are tied under Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 , and include terms such as “light”, “source of”, etc. These declarations are designated to foods that have beneficial nutritional properties in terms of energy intake or any of the substances that make up that food. It is precisely to this group that the term “NATURAL” or “NATURALLY ” belongs , which reserves its use for ” when a food naturally meets the condition or conditions established in this annex for the use of a nutritional declaration “as established in the Regulation. This means that the term “NATURAL / NATURALLY” must always be accompanied by other statements of the same rule. For example, to designate foods that meet the requirement of “protein source” and that these proteins are found naturally in the food, the statement “NATURAL SOURCE OF PROTEINS” would be used.

First of all, none of these statements has the obligation to be accompanied by any logo or any of them.

On the other hand, we find the ecological and biological terms, which are governed by another different Legislation,  Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 . This regulation defines the term “ecological” as belonging to or related to organic production , understood as “the use of production methods in accordance with the standards established in this Regulation at all stages of production, preparation and distribution”. Therefore, this means that all that product must meet all the requirements set out in the regulation regarding organic production in order to be accompanied by the term “ecological” or “biological.”

Organic food will always be accompanied by the EU Community logo designated for it. Formerly the logo consisted of a blue and green circle with a spike of central wheat surrounded by 12 stars and with the inscribed title of “Organic Farming” in the language of the country in which it was marketed. However, from July 2010 a new mandatory logo was designated for all organic products produced in the EU, which is composed of 12 white stars simulating the silhouette of a leaf on a green background.

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