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UK super tomato wins retailer approval

UK supermarket chain Tesco is stocking a tomato said to contain about a third more of the cancer-fighting carotenoid lycopene as regular tomatoes.

The tomato is the product of cross-breeding by British farmers and is being sold as part of Tesco's Healthy Living food line that is increasingly featuring functional foods items.

"This is the first step for Tesco into the developing world of functional foods and we plan to extend our range as public interest grows," said Ian Reed, produce technical manager for Tesco. The UK's biggest retailer said demand for tomatoes has increased in its stores by 10 per cent in the past year.

The new Tesco Healthy Living Tomato on the Vine variety, grown by a specialist British grower, Humber VHB, are 36 per cent richer in lycopene than the standard tomato variety, Elegance. "Functional foods such as tomatoes naturally have high levels of lycopene; however, this naturally bred variety has even higher levels than standard ones," Reed said. "The health benefits of antioxidants such as lycopene in our diets have recently attracted a lot of positive attention from both the medical and culinary worlds," he said.

Studies have linked tomato consumption with lower risk of prostate, colorectal and breast cancers due to its high lycopene content. One study involving thousands of participants found that eating 10 or more servings of tomatoes every week reduced the risk of developing prostate cancer by 45 per cent. Other studies have claimed that tomatoes are vital in reducing the so-called "bad" cholesterol in the blood and thus preventing heart disease.

The lycopene-rich tomatoes will be sold in packs of four to five and will cost £1.89 ($3.40). An organic variety is due to follow later in the year.

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