April 14, 2011
Washington, DC--Labels for Del Monte Seafood Cocktail Sauce, Contadina Pizza Sauce, Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, and other tomato sauces, spaghetti sauces, and purees deceptively claim they are “Made from California Vine-ripened Tomatoes,” contain “Select 100% California Tomatoes,” or use “only the finest tomatoes” when, in fact, they are reconstituted from industrial tomato concentrate.
In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Consumers League (NCL) urged the agency to warn the food industry that claims implying that products are made from fresh ingredients when they are actually made from concentrate are deceptive under federal law. NCL also reiterated its 2009 request that FDA require that all fruit and vegetable products remanufactured from concentrate state “From Concentrate” on the fronts of food packages.
Since NCL’s previous complaint to the FDA, the largest producer of tomato sauces, ConAgra Foods, has taken some corrective steps. The company’s Hunt’s brand removed the claim “Packed full of premium vine-ripened tomatoes” from its tomato sauce label, and the words “packed in season” were removed from the company’s Angela Mia Pizza Sauce label. Other misleading claims, however, remain. NCL has written ConAgra saying the company has “taken a step in the right direction” and urged further corrective actions.
“Consumers are paying premium prices for products that imply they are made from fresh ingredients, but are really remanufactured from concentrate,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of NCL.
Products that NCL believes are still deceptively labeled include:
• 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.
“Companies making misleading claims should note that ConAgra, the industry leader, has changed some of its labels to ensure that their claims are honest and fair. We hope this sends a signal to other companies that taking corrective action is the smart thing to do given recent increases in regulatory scrutiny by federal and state authorities,” said Greenberg.
About the National Consumers League
Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org