What’s Up With These New San Marzano Labels?

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What’s Up With These New San Marzano Labels?

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Most people know that the tomatoes in these cans are not from Italy. If this is the first you’re finding out about it, I’m sorry to drop the bad news on you. Simpson Imports never made any claims that the plum tomatoes in these cans were imported from the volcanic slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Their cans clearly state, in very tiny letters, that the product within was “Grown domestically in the United States.” Even so, most consumers who have heard of this particular cultivar associate it with the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino region of Southern Italy. In the EU, it’s a protected food that can only be grown and handled by strict standards. 

But the US isn’t the EU.

Cans sold in the US can legally claim that the tomato product they hold is of the San Marzano variety because San Marzano is the name of the seed type and not necessarily a marker of field location. But something may be changing based on this recent change to the labels on Simpson Imports cans. 

In the photo above, the can on the left sports the moniker “San Marzano.” On the right, it has changed to SMT. Not too bad; they’re just using fewer letters to say the same thing, right? Nope. Within the letters “SMT” you’ll see very subtly written “San Merican Tomatoes.” So they’ve ditched the San Marzano thing all together? Did some law pass that we didn’t know about? What the heck is San Merican? 

I should point out that I don’t at all dislike these tomatoes, I’m just curious about the label change and wonder if it has anything to do with protection of the San Marzano DOP branding. Perhaps the tomatoes are not of the San Marzano variety at all. No response yet from Simpson Imports but I hope to get to the bottom of this sometime soon.