Pizza Is A Vegetable!!!

Hooray! Thank goodness for this news. I must admit that when I saw this piece of news, I was excited.  I have always wanted to be able to eat pizza guilt free. And now I can, right!?

Congress is now saying that pizza can be classified as a vegetable in school lunches.  Earlier this year the Agriculture Department proposed new regulations that were supposed to limit the amount of potatoes and change other foods that were allowed into school lunches.  A final revision of the bill has removed these limits and has included allowing 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to be counted as a vegetable.  Originally, the bill wanted to include 1/2 a cup of tomato paste as a serving of vegetables, but this is too much to be on a single serving of pizza.

Companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers requested the changes (surprise, surprise).  Food companies who have fought the USDA standards say they were too strict and neglected the nutrients that potatoes, other starchy vegetables and tomato paste do offer.

Specifically, the revisions in the bill are listed below.

  • Block the Agriculture Department from limiting starchy vegetables, including corn and peas, to two servings a week. The rule was intended to cut down on french fries, which some schools serve daily.
  • Allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The department had attempted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable — too much to put on a pizza. Federally subsidized lunches must have a certain number of vegetables to be served.
  • Require further study on long-term sodium reduction requirements set forth by the USDA guidelines.
  • Require USDA to define “whole grains” before they regulate them. The rules would require schools to use more whole grains.

It baffles me that limiting starchy vegetables is a point of contention.  First of all, they shouldn’t be classified as vegetables.  It gives them credit as health food where no credit is due.  Secondly, corn is not a vegetable! It is a grain.  Period.  Thirdly, it is a proven fact that high levels of starch in the diet lead to poor health outcomes.  It has been linked to everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.  Why are we continuing to allow it in our school lunches?

The answer is short and political.  It has everything to do with money and lobbying power and nothing to do with what is actually in the best interests of  the health of the children in this country.

By allowing tomato paste to be classified as a vegetable it essentially makes pizza a vegetable.  Where else are children going to get tomato paste in their school lunch? Pizza is already too prevalent in school lunches.  I remember when I was in school pizza was served everyday as an alternative to the planned meal available AND it was the main meal served every Friday.

Below is a quote from the American Frozen Food Institute:

“This agreement ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally funded school meals and recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta,” said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute.

‘Healthy meals such as pizza and pasta!?’ Did I read that correctly? Obviously the American Frozen Food Institute is not in the business of trying to help people be healthy, but I can’t believe Mr. Naasz could write that statement with a straight face. He might as well have said the sky is green! That would have been just as true as his statement on healthy foods.

The lobby power of big industry groups like the one above is too great and their interests are only in preserving their share of the market to make money. I wish people in Congress would take some initiative and vote for what they believe is right for this country and not based on a powerful lobby group that only has their interests at heart.

Whose interest does the American Frozen Food Institute have a heart? Perhaps a quick perusal of their current Board of Directors will provide some insight:

Michael Allen
 – Kellogg Co.
Paul Bakus
 – Nestle Pizza
Larry Cope
 – Clear Springs Foods Inc.
Paul A. DiGenova
 – Pinnacle Foods
Greg Evans
 – McCain Foods Ltd.
Brian Folkerts
 – Kraft Foods
James E. Matthews, Jr. – 
H.J. Heinz Co.
Paul L. Palmby
 – Seneca Foods Corporation
Joan Menke-Schaenzer
 – ConAgra Foods Inc.
Jeff Varcoe
 – The Schwan Food Company
Robert E. Ashmun
 – National Frozen Foods Corp.
Peter Cokinos – 
Little Lady Foods, Inc.
Andy Dahlen
 – General Mills, Inc.
Wesley Eubanks 
- The Pictsweet Co.
Stan Firestone
 – Firestone Pacific Foods Inc.
Steve Lezman – Tropicana Products Inc.
David E. Moore
 – Superior Foods
Bobby D. Ray
 – Haliburton International Foods
Joe Pacinelli
 – Better Baked Foods, Inc.
Steven R. Windh
 – Windsor Foods
Dave J. Yanda
 – Lakeside Foods, Inc.

Now are we really surprised they would lobby to have healthy foods removed from school lunches? Above are members of the largest junk food companies in the world. It’s criminal that we let our government be run by special interest groups like this.

Another part of the problem is that some will read the above statement by the America Frozen Food Institute and actually believe pizza and pasta are wholesome, nutritious meals when nothing could be further from the truth. We need better education on what is healthy and what is not.  Until then, special interest groups like the American Frozen Food Institute, the grain industry and the potato industry will continue to guide what we feed our children in schools.  You can bet they won’t be asking to include more vegetables anytime soon.

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Diet, Public Health

3 responses to “Pizza Is A Vegetable!!!

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’m thinking of doing an update about this myself, because this sickens me. What a heroic Congress we have, making it easier for kids to get fat. :-/

  2. I have officially joined the club. I agree. I blame school lunches for my past existence as a sad fat kid, so I’m beyond angry.

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