NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 18, 2005

The Florida Tomato Committee (FTC) exerts control over what type of tomatoes can be sold and it oddly has nothing to do with taste, writes Radley Balko, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute.

The FTC requires that tomatoes look aesthetically pleasing, even if they taste like cardboard, because they say that is what is valued by consumers:

  • Florida produces half of all tomatoes grown in the United States and most of the tomatoes Americans eat during winter.
  • Florida tomatoes are easy to spot: round, red, and firm to the touch, just like a Christmas tree ornament.

Balko notes that these supposedly superior tomatoes are actually picked while they are still green and are doused with chemicals throughout the shipping process. Meanwhile, the FTC has ruled that tasty but ugly tomatoes can no longer be sold as Florida tomatoes.

For instance, the very popular UglyRipes, a brand of tomatoes which are picked pink and are specially packaged to maintain freshness, cannot be sold as Florida tomatoes -- a decision that will cost the manufacturer about $3 million.

The FTC claims that it needs tight controls on the quality of tomatoes allowed into the marketplace. According to Balko, the marketplace is smart enough to determine what constitutes a worthy tomato.

Moreover, the anti-UglyRipe bias of the FTC amounts to protectionism because it spares Florida's old-guard tomato growers from competition at the expense of consumers, says Balko.

Source: Radley Balko, "Attack of the Killer Tomato Snobs," Cato Institute, January 23, 2005; and Jeffrey Kofman, "Florida Keeps Ugly Tomatoes to Itself," ABC News, December 26, 2004.

For ABC News text:


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