Consumers want truthful labels on reconstituted tomato products

June 30, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- From pizzerias to truck stops to gentle country inns, restaurateurs around Maryland are making their opinions known about a proposed Food and Drug Administration rule that would require reconstituted tomatoes to be labeled as such.

"I feel real strongly that [tomatoes] should be truthfully labeled -- you've got to know what you're buying," said Paul LaRuffa, who owns and runs Margellina's Italian Restaurant in Clinton, in Prince George's County, with his wife and son.

Mr. LaRuffa is one of more than 4,000 consumers who have written to the FDA requesting the labeling requirement.

"It's the same as the difference between fresh orange juice and orange juice from concentrate," Mr. LaRuffa said. "It tastes different -- it's just completely different."

In simpler times, all tomatoes were picked, cooked and canned on-site. But about a decade ago, some large, multinational food companies discovered that they could cut transportation costs (most domestic tomatoes are grown in California) by removing most of the water, shipping them, and then adding water and packing them near the point of distribution.

At the same time, the multinationals started buying up small tomato companies that had been around for decades. People began opening jars and finding that their old standby tomato products were darker in color and different in taste.

"I was using a product for a long time that I trusted, and then I found that it had been reformulated," said Jean-Louis Lepage, another Maryland letter writer.

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