The desired red color of canned tomato paste comes from a mature tomato fruit with a sweet flavor and high concentration of lycopene. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses the tomato paste score (TPS) to grade the product and ensure it meets quality and consumer expectations.

Color and appearance matter because they are the first purchasing factors customers consider. When customers cook with tomato paste, they have certain expectations tomato paste manufacturers must meet to indicate the product's freshness.

READ  Tomato Paste to Sauce: Color Measurement Can Help You Understand Differences in Customer Perception

What Color Should Tomato Paste Be? 

Consumers expect tomato paste from fresh tomatoes to be red or deep red. When the USDA first established tomato paste color classifications, ratings relied on visual assessments. Now, spectrophotometers are the trusted color measurement solutions.

Spectrophotometers determine the tomato paste's color measurement results based on a specific formula. These parameters are used to calculate the TPS. The USDA Processed Products Standards and Quality Certification allocate more than one-fourth of the tomato paste quality grade to this color index reading.

The USDA has three color classifications for tomato paste:

  1. Grade A: The tomato paste is a “good color” of a bright red and scores 45 to 50 points.
  2. Grade C: The tomato paste has a “fairly good color,” generally red with a dull or brown cast, and scores 40 to 44 points.
  3. Substandard: The tomato paste fails to meet Grade C standards and scores 0 to 39 points.

How Can You Tell If Tomato Paste Is Good?

You can determine whether your tomato paste is good by checking the:

  • Package integrity: Tomato paste must be stored in a damage-free container. Do not use tomato paste from dented, bulged, rusty, or leaking cans.
  • Expiration date: Tomato paste can be safely consumed after the expiration date if the package is undamaged and the product is fresh. Spoiled tomato paste has a different odor, appearance, or flavor than the product does at peak freshness and may have mold growth.
  • Length of time since opening: Tomato paste that's been opened can be preserved in the refrigerator or freezer. Tomato paste lasts in the fridge for five to seven days in a covered glass or plastic container. When stored in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bag, tomato paste will maintain its best quality for three to four months in the freezer and remain safe to consume after this time.
INFO  Get More Information

Contact HunterLab Today for Color Standardization

HunterLab is a pioneer in tomato paste color measurements. The USDA used our spectrophotometers to create the first color-scoring system for tomato product quality in the late 1970s. Today, food manufacturers use the ColorFlex EZ Tomato spectrophotometer to accurately measure the color and appearance of tomato paste.

Contact HunterLab today for more information about using our spectrophotometers for tomato paste.