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Cento Falsely-Labeled “San Marzano” Tomatoes Class Action

Can of Cento "San Marzano" Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes are special. They are grown in a particular region of Italy which gives them a firm pulp, sweet flavor, and low acidity. Because they are so desirable, they sell at higher prices, and other tomatoes are often fraudulently labeled as San Marzano tomatoes. The complaint for this class action alleges that Cento Fine Foods, Inc. is one of the companies who falsely label their canned tomatoes as San Marzano tomatoes.

The Nationwide Class for this action is all consumers in all states who bought any of the products with actionable representations during the statutes of limitation. There is also a New York State Class. 

San Marzano tomatoes are grown in the San Marzano sul Sarno region of Italy, which has a temperate climate and rich volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius. 

San Marzano seeds are available around the world, but the supply of real San Marzano tomatoes is limited. They require careful cultivation, including vertical breeding with supports, and they cannot be harvested mechanically. This plus the limited land available in the area means that only a certain number of real San Marzano tomatoes are available each year. Because of this, some makers of tomato products sell tomato products fraudulently labeled as San Marzano tomatoes. 

The Consortium for the Protection of the San Marzano Tomato Dell’agro Sarnese Nocerino is a non-governmental group that that represents real San Marzano tomatoes. Its head estimates that only five percent of tomatoes that claim to be San Marzanos really are. To identify the real ones, companies put certain seals and serial numbers on their products.

Cento’s cans are labeled “Pomodoro San Marzano” and bear the letters “ICEA.” However, the complaint claims that the ICEA does not certify that the products are real San Marzano tomatoes or comply with San Marzano guidelines. 

The can claims that the tomatoes are “certified by an independent third-party agency and are produced with the proper method to ensure superior quality.” On its website, Cento claims that a company called “Argi Cert” or “Bio Agri Cert” is the third-party agency. However, the complaint claims that this agency may be the one that sells Cento the seeds for the tomatoes, but it does not certify that they are real San Marzano tomatoes. 

The complaint says, “It is implausible for defendant’s Product to be identical or substantially similar to the other certified Products because there are not enough serial numbers distributed each year by the regulating body to cover the volume of defendant’s output.” It also says, “Further, it would be unprofitable to engage in the labor-intensive growing and harvesting process for such a large number of tomatoes yet sell them at their retail price.”

The complaint alleges that Cento violates New York’s General Business Law as well as other, similar state laws and has committed negligent misrepresentation, breaches of warranties, and fraud, among other things.

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