Goodbye Aussie tomato paste

Leggo’s tomato paste, which until recently used to be labelled an Australian product, is now labelled as having less than 10% Australian ingredients.

It doesn’t say on the jar where the other 90% comes from.

At our local Woolworths in southern Tassie a 500g jar of Leggo’s tomato paste is $4.80, while a 500g jar of generic tomato past labelled “Produced in China” is $1.40.

Looking further, I found that all processed garlic products in jars at our local Woolworths are from China. I could not find garlic products from other sources other than fresh garlic cloves.

Given how polluted Chinese water sources are (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36022538 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8631815/), and that highly toxic pesticides have been found in Chinese produce, including tomatoes (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651321005406), one wonders about the risk of Chinese food products being tainted.

And with tomato paste and crushed garlic products, it appears we have little choice but to buy Chinese or from unknown sources, or stop using them.

It is not just potential heavy metal and pesticide contamination that is a concern. In frozen imported goods such as berries, pathogens such as hepatitis have been imported in Chinese food in the past (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/how-did-frozen-berries-become-contaminated-with-hepatitis-a/6120872).

Is Leggo’s tomato paste now made from Chinese-grown tomatoes? Or do they use Italian or other tomatoes? And are Australian authorities on the ball enough to detect tainted imported food?

I put questions about their tomato paste to Leggo’s, they replied promptly but did not say where the tomatoes now come from. Leggo’s’ response, in part: Thank you for your email regarding the country of origin of the Leggo’s tomato paste. Leggo’s has been made in Australia with quality ingredients for over 100 years. We make our sauces and tomato pastes with love and care, sourcing our ingredients from local farmers and communities where possible. At the heart of our operations is Echuca, Victoria, where we make our delicious sauces. Unfortunately, due to extreme weather events in Victoria, there is currently a shortage of locally sourced tomatoes. As a temporary measure, we have partnered with trusted overseas suppliers to ensure you, our valued customers, can continue to enjoy our quality sauces with absolute confidence. Where possible, we continue to use Australian tomatoes in our products and look forward to returning in full to Australian grown tomatoes next season. Despite these difficult times, we continue to manufacture our delicious sauces at our Echuca site in regional Victoria to support local manufacturing.

This consumer hopes they revert back to Aussie tomatoes as soon as possible.

Australia’s food labelling laws appear to be woeful, allowing such horrors as “Made from Local and Imported Ingredients”, which is about as cynical as the sales slogan “Buy Now and Save”.

Lastly, below is a screenshot taken from the Leggo’s website today (30/11/2023).

Tasmanian Life