US food giant H.J. Heinz has welcomed the decision by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant approval for the use of a Qualified Health Claim for raw, cooked, dried or canned tomatoes.

A consortium led by Heinz, the world's largest producer of processed tomato products, had submitted a petition for a Qualified Health Claim citing scientific evidence that the consumption of tomato products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

"We're delighted with the FDA's announcement, reinforcing what Heinz has long believed about the health benefits of tomatoes," said F. Kerr Dow, vice president and chief technical officer for Heinz. "It validates Heinz's long-term support of tomato research and our ongoing education programme. As the FDA confirmed, research findings are still limited and scientific studies must continue on tomatoes and their link to preventing disease and enhancing well-being."

Dow added that based on health claim guidance provided by the FDA, the risk of prostate cancer may be reduced by eating just 1/2 to 1 cup of tomatoes and/or tomato sauce per week.