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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Tomato growers fuel ketchup row
Tomatoes
Eating six fresh ripe tomatoes will give you 30mg of lycopene
Consumers need to eat an entire bottle of tomato ketchup a day to reap any of the major health benefits, warn tomato growers.

They are at loggerheads with ketchup manufacturers over whether fresh or processed tomatoes have a greater impact on health.

The antioxidant lycopene, known to be good for health, is more readily absorbed in processed tomatoes than the fresh fruit.

But the British tomato growers say the processing industry is using this fact to "mislead" the public by failing to mention that to get all the benefits, a person would need to consume an entire 200ml bottle of ketchup a day.

The tomato growers say eating six fresh tomatoes would provide the optimum 30mg of lycopene, with the added benefits of vitamins C and E.

Lycopene, which is also found in watermelon, grapes and some sorts of shell fish, is said to offer protection against cancer and heart disease and has even been found to boost sperm counts in infertile men.


You would need to consume an entire 200ml bottle together with all the unwelcome baggage of salt and added sugars

Gerry Hayman, of the British Tomato Growers' Association

"Misleading"

Gerry Hayman, a consultant to the British Tomato Growers' Association, said he was annoyed by the "misleading" claims over the benefits of processed tomatoes.

"Again and again claims are made, particularly by the Heinz-funded Lycopene Project, that it is best consumed by eating processed tomatoes, such as tomato sauce, rather than fresh tomatoes.

"This is fundamentally misleading. It is currently believed that the optimum daily intake of lycopene should be 25-30milligrams.

"To obtain this via, say tomato sauce, you would need to consume an entire 200ml bottle together with all the unwelcome baggage of salt and added sugars."

The Lycopene Project is a global initiative to identify and support further research into the health benefits of lycopene.

It was supported by HJ Heinz, the world's largest processor of tomatoes.

Lycopene

Nutritionist and dietician Jane Griffin said that although lycopene was more readily absorbed from processed tomatoes that the amounts needed made this difficult.

"The amount of processed tomatoes you would need to consume to reach 30mg of lycopene would be substantial. The British tomato growers do have a point."


We have never suggested, nor would we, that you should only get lycopene from processed products or ketchup. That's nonsense

Dr Nigel Dickie, of Heinz

She said the lycopene in fresh tomatoes could be more readily absorbed if the fresh fruit were cooked in a little oil.

But Dr Nigel Dickie, a nutritionist consultant to Heinz, said they had never claimed that the processed fruit should be the only source of lycopene.

"We have never suggested, nor would we, that you should only get lycopene from processed products or ketchup. That's nonsense.

"All our communication has been about the potential benefits of lycopene from a wide variety of sources. We don't suggest that anybody could get what might be an optimum intake of lycopene from eating ketchup."

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See also:

12 Mar 01 | Health
Fruit fights infertility
21 Dec 00 | Health
Oral cancer attacked by tomatoes
30 May 00 | Health
GM tomatoes 'fight cancer'
31 Jan 01 | Health
New test for infertile men
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