Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I've solved the mystery of clashing labels on Campari Tomatoes

Sunset-brand Campari Tomatoes in 1-pound packages at Fairway Market in Paramus in 2012. Costco Wholesale sells the same tomatoes in 2-pound packages for a good deal less.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I thought I was seeing things:

Labels with and without the words "no herbicides" or "herbicide-free" on Sunset-brand Campari tomatoes -- those deep-red orbs small enough to pop into your mouth whole for an explosion of wonderful, tomatoey flavor.

I buy them at Costco, and when the words no longer appeared on the label, I thought this must be another kind of Campari tomatoes grown with herbicides, so I went looking for the herbicide-free line elsewhere. I didn't find it. 

Prices are all over the place. At Costco, they are $4.99, $5.29 or $5.49 for a 2-pound package; ShopRite in Rochelle Park actually had the nerve to put them out for $7.99.

Today, I looked at the Web site and could find no mention of herbicides, though there was an indication that "good bugs" in the greenhouse eat "bad bugs." 

Then, I called Mastronardi Produce in Canada, the greenhouse growers of the Sunset brand, and was assured the company still uses no herbicides or pesticides, but has been prohibited from saying so on the Web site or product labels by a new Canadian law that went into effect at the end of last year.

The woman I spoke to suggested the Canadian government, being unable to verify such claims, decided to ban the use of those words on produce labels to eliminate misrepresentation by unscrupulous growers.

That puts my mind at rest. I'm just finishing up a package of Campari tomatoes I bought for $4.99, and I'll be sure to get more, if they are available at that price.

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20 comments:

  1. Love these tomatoes but can only afford to buy them when they are $2 or under a container at Eastern Groceries on Railway Ave in Paterson.

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  2. That's $2 for one pound, correct? The container shown on the blog is one pound.

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  3. Yes $2 or less for a one pound container, generally $1.49.

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  4. I eat these all the time. Best tasting tomato I have found yet. Some other supermarkets had packages from other brands with the label just saying cocktail tomatoes. They were not even half the flavor of the real Campari.

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  5. And isn't it great they are available year-round?

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  6. "certified pesticide free" is nothing more than a marketing gimmick as all produce available at stores in the US is certified to be free of herbicide, pesticide and fungicide residue based on FDA rules and regulations and their random residue testing.(detectable levels) All imported product is randomly tested at the border. So some greenhouse growers have submitted their product to more stringent third party testing and are claiming that their product is virtually free of the above mentioned residues. This does not mean they are not using any fungicide, pesticide or herbicides on their crops. If it was so they would be able to claim their product is "pesticide free grown " That is why Mastronardi will not put it in writing or put it on their packaging. To say that greenhouse grown product is equal or close to organic is a farce. Costco for example elects to not carry organic tomatoes. Why? Don't know! But organic tomatoes are available on a year round basis.

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  7. That's news to me that "all produce available at stores in the US is certified free of herbicide, pesticide and fungicide residue," as you say.

    That doesn't sound accurate at all, and I've never seen anything on produce boxes to that effect.

    In fact, I read rankings of produce with the most pesticides and so forth. Strawberries are usually listed as the fruit that get the most.

    Costco does carry Earthbound Farms Organic Spring Mix and Organic Carrots, as well as organic ground beef.

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  8. I recently bought a container of Sunset Campari tomatoes at the East Hanover, NJ, Costco and was disappointed in them. They were a paler shade of red and were not as firm or as tasty as usual! I checked the label and was surprised to see that they were grown in MEXICO!?!

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  9. A lot of Sunset produce comes from Mexico, but the problem here sounds like you didn't let the tomatoes ripen on the counter before you ate them. Look for redder, riper ones next time, and never put them in the fridge.

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    1. Actually I always let tomatoes ripen on the counter and treated these just that way. They got soft and were much less flavorful than the Sunset Campari tomatoes I've gotten in the past from Costco and which have been from Canada. I grew up on a farm and am a tomato lover who was thrilled when Sunset Campari tomatoes first became available for winter tomato eating.

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  10. Thanks. I haven't been buying them since the price went up, choosing Sunset beefsteaks instead, but I'll check out the Campari tomatoes at my Costco today.

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  11. I've been googling to try to find out why Campari tomatoes have disappeared from Costco & other local grocery stores over the last few weeks. Not a sign of them. I live in Vancouver BC... I came upon your blog and wondered if you have any insight into the current dearth of these tomatoes

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    1. I haven't a clue. We've been buying them regularly this winter at our Costco in Teterboro, N.J., and my wife picked up more yesterday (2 pounds for $4.99).

      The company is in Ontario, and though I haven't contacted them recently, they are very approachable.

      Mastronardi Produce® Ltd. 2100 Road 4 East Kingsville, ON N9Y 2E5 Canada Phone: (519) 326-1491 - See more at: http://www.sunsetgrown.com//

      Good luck. I love how they taste in the dead of a New Jersey winter, and often pop a whole one into my mouth, bite down and let it burst. Fantastic.

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    2. You could also pose your question on Costco's Facebook page.

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  12. I believe the reason that these wonder tomatoes do not rot quickly is because they GMO.

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  13. Well I just saw a website where it says the tomatoes are not gmo..but what gives ?How can it be ripe when you bring it home and it lasts almost 2 weeks on the counter?

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    1. Not sure there is a connection between GMOs and how long produce lasts.

      From what I've read, genetically modified crops produce their own pesticide.

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