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French tomatoes become latest food to receive top quality label

Why growers submit to random inspections and taste tests to compete on quality not price

For the cherry tomato, quality inspectors look at how crunchy, sweet and juicy it is Pic: Antoine Brun-Hairion Rougeline

Tomatoes are the latest food to benefit from Label Rouge quality certification, allowing consumers to identify superior products.

The label will apply to four varieties: cherry tomatoes, both loose and on the vine; round tomatoes on the vine; and tomates allongées cœur.

To obtain the label, producers will have to meet a strict list of specifications and be subject to random weekly inspections.

Read more: Tips on where to find the best value fruit and vegetables in France

France can compete on taste not cost

Félix Pizon, director of the Association des Fruits et Légumes du Lot-et-Garonne (AIFLG), charged with undertaking the quality inspections, said: “For the cherry tomato, for example, we look at how crunchy, sweet and juicy it is.”

Producers cannot use artificial light to boost growth, or produce tomatoes before spring.

“We know we cannot rival countries such as Spain and Morocco with the same product, as we do not have the same production costs,” Mr Pizon said. 

“The solution is to move upmarket and offer a tomato that has more taste.”

The Label Rouge tomatoes are produced in Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Orientales, and Provence. 

The label is recognised only in France, but the AIFLG is also hoping to obtain a European IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) label for the Marmande tomato produced mainly in Lot-et-Garonne.

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