Scam in a Can: Are Your San Marzano Tomatoes the Real Deal?

At least 95 percent of so-called “San Marzano tomatoes” in the U.S. are fake, according to one expert, but it’s not hard to recognize them.

While Italy strictly regulates the growing and labeling of San Marzano tomatoes to ensure authenticity, it’s “buyer beware” in the U.S., and fraud is rampant.


Where did your can of San Marzano tomatoes come from? If you guessed San Marzano, you’re probably wrong.

Famously tasty and ideal for pasta and pizza sauces, San Marzano tomatoes have an outsized reputation among pizzeria operators and restaurants specializing in Italian cuisine. They’re essential to authentic Neapolitan pizza, according to the rules of the APN and VPN. They’re expensive, too, and where there’s a lot of money at stake, fraud is often rampant. According to Taste, the vast majority of tomatoes marketed as San Marzanos in the U.S. are phony, including some that appear to bear Italy’s DOP label of authenticity.

“In 2011, Edoardo Ruggiero, the president of Consorzio San Marzano, told the small Italian importing company Gustiamo that at maximum 5 percent of tomatoes sold in the U.S. as San Marzanos are real San Marzanos,” Taste reports. “So according to the guy who oversees the certification of those tomatoes, at least 95 percent of the so-called San Marzanos in the U.S. are fake.”

Flavored oils may cost a little more, but they’ll make your pizzas pop!

Part of the problem is that the U.S. has no equivalent to Italy’s DOP requirements or the Consorzio San Marzano for growing and labeling the tomatoes. It’s a case of “buyer beware,” and some buyers don’t know enough to be wary.

“We see all these crazy, sketchy things,” Danielle Aquino Roitmayr of Gustiamo told Taste. “Italians will send tomatoes to the U.S. with no label, and companies here will put a DOP label on it. In America, you can’t put a USDA Organic label on [just] anything, but DOP is not regulated here.”

Real San Marzano tomatoes are grown near Naples, in the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino area under Mount Vesuvius, and harvested by hand by Italian farmers. So how do you tell the phonies from the real deal? For starters, the real ones are sold whole or in fillets, and they’re always peeled or canned. A can of diced, crushed or pulped tomatoes with the San Marzano label does not come from San Marzano. 

To further verify your San Marzanos, look for both the DOP seal and the Consorzio San Marzano certification number on the bottom of the can. The label should also read, “Pomodoro S. Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino.”


Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Beer for Life and German Pizza

New Brewtorium in Austin, Texas, sells German pizza and a beer-for-life program.

Have You Heard of Beach Pizza?

This square pizza started near the shore in the 1940s.

New York Water From Your Tap?

NJ company promises new filtration system will deliver New York-quality water to any city's tap.

How 786 Degrees Has Almost 800 Positive Yelp Reviews

Ali Haider, owner of 786 Degrees in Los Angeles, talks with Bruce Irving about his passion for pizza and igniting that passion in others.

Chocolate Pizza Dough is Now a Thing

This pizzeria puts chocolate inside its pizza dough, and it's incredible!

New Study Says Pizza Stimulates Productivity

Promises of pizza are a bigger motivator than cash, according to study.

Reese and Mindy Make Everyone Want Pizza

Pizza orders surely went up after Reese Witherspoon posted this photo of her and Mindy Kaling eating pizza on the set of A Wrinkle in Time.

Uproar in Milan Over Healthy Pizza

Michelin-starred chef is making enemies with his whole-grain pizza.

How to Make Wild Game Pizza

Field and Stream's editor-in-chief shares his recipe for venison sausage pizza made in a cast iron skillet.

Pi Day Deals

Are you running a Pi Day deal on 3.14?
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags