The largest U.S. seller of San Marzano tomatoes, known to Italian food lovers as the best tomatoes for making pasta sauce, has been hit with two federal lawsuits claiming what's inside the can isn't the real thing.
New Jersey-based Cento Fine Foods called the claims "wrongful" this week, asserting their tomatoes are true San Marzanos, grown at the base of Mount Vesuvius in Campania in Italy.
Cento, on its website, says an independent third-party agency, Agri-Cert, certifies that the product is "produced with the proper method." Cans' "lot codes" make them traceable to the exact field in the Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy where the tomatoes were picked, Cento explains.
The company also claims to be the only United States brand that owns and operates it's own production facility in the region, describing its location as "literally in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius."
One suit filed in New York in February alleges fraud and disputes Cento's yield of San Marzano tomatoes, saying the manufacturer couldn't possibly produce as many authentic tomatoes as it claims to. Another suit filed recently in California says the cans lack certain labeling that qualifies them as true San Marzanos.
The company says that isn't a requirement.
San Marzano tomatoes are a favorite among foodies for their sweet flavor, stronger taste and low acidity compared to other tomatoes, and also cost twice as much.