The National Consumers League has again called on the Food and Drug Administration to renew its efforts to prevent consumers from being misled by deceptive labeling of processed fruit and vegetable products – this time in the canned tomato products industry.
Labels on some popular tomato sauces aren’t what they seem. Consumer groups are onto this Food Identity Theft deception, and news outlets are reporting the scam. These suspicious products mislead consumers with claims like “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes” implying they are made from fresh tomatoes.
But in fact the products are made using reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate–tomato paste and added water. Tomato sauce remanufactured from concentrate is a highly processed food that’s cheaper to make and more profitable for companies who are trying to pass off the stuff as the real thing.
Culprits include some of the biggest names in the industry including Del Monte, Contadina, and Classico.
The only way for consumers to avoid getting cheated is to carefully check the ingredient label on the back of the package. The first ingredient should be Tomatoes. If the first few ingredients are water and tomato paste, or tomato puree (made from water and tomato paste), the product is likely remanufactured from concentrate.
Here are some examples of deceptive labeling:
• Del Monte Seafood Cocktail Sauce that claims “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes” on the front of the package when, in fact, it is made from concentrate (tomato paste and added water). An image of a vine-ripened tomato appears directly below the claim.
• Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce that states on the label “In colorful Naples, pasta sauces are pure and simple, with ripe, red tomatoes…” when the product is actually made from concentrate. The claim has been deleted from new “value size” 44 oz jars of the sauce, but still appears on the label of the smaller, 24-oz. product.
• Contadina Pizza Sauce and Contadina Puree that state “Contadina picks the Freshest Tomatoes,” and “Our vine-ripened Roma style tomatoes are grown to a rich red color before picking…” (a picture on the front label depicts vine-ripened tomatoes and a tomato field and the term “ROMA STYLE TOMATOES” appears on the front of the package below the Contadina brand name). The products, in fact, are made from concentrate.
Other products with misleading labels identified by NCL are Francesco Rinaldi Original Traditional Pasta Sauce and Gia Russa Tomato Puree.