Did you know that only five percent of tomatoes sold in the U.S. as San Marzanos, the fanciest of tomatoes for cooking sauces and grown specifically in volcanic soil, are real San Marzanos? That’s what Edoardo Ruggiero, the president of Consorzio San Marzano, said in 2011. And if your San Marzano tomatoes don’t have the special DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) symbol and certification on the label confirming they are indeed San Marzanos, they’re fakes! Fakes I tell you!
There is some serious San Marzanos drama brewing stateside. Philly.com reports that the South Jersey-based brand Cento is being hit with accusations that their tomatoes are fake, according to two federal lawsuits. This is important because San Marzanos are quite pricey, and one of the suits is filed by three plaintiffs who want customers reimbursed for their purchases. Cento’s products read “San Marzano” but do not possess a DOP symbol.
Cento denies these allegations, writing in a statement that they “refutes all of the inaccurate and wrongful claims in the complaint and is astounded by the lack of factual information therein.” They say their tomatoes are indeed grown in that special volcanic soil at the base of Mt. Vesuvius and that the reason they don’t have a DOP symbol is because after their crops were approved in 2010, a new government body came in to approve labels. Months later Cento was told “our label no longer conformed to their requirements” and just decided to remove the DOP seals because of the “unreasonable nature” of the new requirements. Cento assures everyone that their tomatoes are indeed certified San Marzano tomatoes.
My take on the whole thing? I can’t tell a damn difference and it all tastes the same to me.