Cento San Marzano Organic Tomatoes

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Julia Murray
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Cento Fine Foods is a company that is a specialty Italian food importer and distributor. Cento makes an effort in the transparency of their product but I advise Cento to go above and beyond by taking a deep dive into sustainable agriculture practices, being transparent about the emissions they are creating by importing or distributing, and educating consumers that the labor used to make this product is providing adequate wages and working conditions.

What it's made of:


 Cento’s San Marzano Organic Tomatoes are made of simple ingredients: ​​San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes, San Marzano Puree, Basil Leaf, Naturally Derived Citric Acid, and Salt. These ingredients show that there are no additives except naturally derived citric acid which is found naturally in produce products. The tomatoes are grown in many regions of Italy with the sustainable farming practice of crop rotation. Cento explains on their website that they have implemented steps in their farms to, “reduce CO2 emissions, save water and reduce byproduct waste.” These are great steps to improving their sustainability but how do I know they are implementing these practices? Cento’s San Marzano Tomatoes are certified organic which means according to the USDA, they have not been grown with prohibited substances or pesticides and have not been genetically modified. 


For the packaging of these tomatoes, they are packed in steel cans that are recyclable in some areas. State and local governments manage recycling requirements which differ from across the US. In 2014, Cento transitioned to not use BPA (Bisphenol A) in the protective lining of their cans which is linked to various health problems like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Cento also offers packaging in glass and aseptic packaging. Aseptic packaging is made of cartons of layered paper, aluminum, and plastic which may not be recyclable. 


As for transportation, Cento imports San Marzano Tomatoes from Italy to redistribute to all 50 states in the US. It is not made transparent how the products are shipped or if there are any efforts to mitigate CO2 by different shipping methods. 


Cento shows initiative to be transparent with consumers and it is comforting to see a short ingredient list with no risk of additives but I would advise Cento to improve their transparency to inform consumers on their sustainable farming practices by explicitly showing examples of how they have implemented for example practices to reduce CO2. As for packaging, it would be ideal to have compostable packaging, but steel cans are reusable and recyclable in some areas. Transportation of the product should be made clear with total shipping mileage or improving this area by other shipping methods. For these reasons, I give 2.5 planets because I recognize that Cento is making an effort, keeping ingredients simple, but Cento could go further to display sustainable initiatives.


How it's made:


Cento San Marzano’s Tomatoes are grown in Sarnese Nocerino of Italy. The tomatoes are certified by an independent third party, Agri-Cert which regulates and certifies the tomatoes as authentic and grown in Italy. A video on their website explaining the process says the tomatoes are hand-picked. Who is picking the tomatoes and are the wages livable? After the tomatoes are picked, “they are taken from the field and packaged into cans within hours.” The video also shows the washing of the tomatoes and steam peeling of the tomatoes. Workers select fit tomatoes to prepare for canning. When the tomatoes are canned they are sterilized and cooled. The process of steam peeling may use lots of water and what are the steps to reduce overuse? What happens to the tomatoes that are not fit for canning? This could lead to food waste which I would like Cento to make clear that they are diverting food waste.


Cento also provides a “Find My Field” code unique to different cans to find where your tomatoes were grown which promotes traceability. Cento provides plenty of information of where the tomatoes are grown but I believe they could be more transparent in their factory process of how many factories there are, and how the transportation of the tomatoes is handled to import to the US.

Who makes it:


Cento Fine Foods, founded in 1963, is a family-owned company that specializes in importing and distributing about 1,000 Italian food products. Cento prides themselves on ensuring the authenticity of Italian imported foods and quality customer service. Cento explains their future goals are to promote sustainability and improve their traceability. This means that Cento is not working on these goals currently. Cento could create a realistic timeline and specific goals to achieve these broad plans. Cento states, “we are transparent in our product’s origin and quality control standards..” I am pleased to find that Cento is transparent about the ingredients and quality control that go into producing San Marzano Tomatoes but I would advise to further this transparency with their transportation, labor practices, and in-depth explanation of their sustainable agriculture practices by documenting these plans. Cento has no current plans about improving in these areas.