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New global tomato standard


July 18, 2008
By Marg Land


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tomatoes02July 18, 2008, Geneva – You say tomato, I say substandard agricultural product. A UN food safety meeting has
agreed on the first global quality measure for tomatoes after more than
six years of wrangling over the popular red fruit.

July 18, 2008, Geneva – You say tomato, I say substandard agricultural product.

tomatoes02A UN food safety meeting has agreed on the first global quality measure for tomatoes after more than six years of wrangling over the popular red fruit.

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“The standard regulates … quality and handling issues, and even just definition” of what is a tomato, Tom Heilandt of the Food and Agriculture Organization told reporters recently.

Tomatoes were among 32 items for which new or revised standards were agreed at the weeklong meeting of food and health experts in Geneva in early July.

The standards are not legally binding, but under international trade rules countries can refuse to allow the import of products deemed below minimum quality.

“It’s not forcing all tomatoes to be the same, but it also recognizes that tomatoes have to have certain characteristics in order to be transported internationally,” Heilandt said.

The tomato standard, which matches requirements that many countries already impose on a national level, would also help protect consumers from dangerous products, he said.

Further work on hygiene standards in the coming years will tighten the rules to prevent outbreaks of food-borne diseases, said food safety scientist Peter Ben Embarek of the World Health Organization.