Opinion: American veg: pizza

POSTED: 11/22/11 7:11 AM

Some people are smarter than others and we’re the first to acknowledge that as a fact. Some people are also weirder than others and while we do not have statistical data to support this claim, we do have a rather unique example of weirdness. It’s not about the French this time, about the hapless Greeks or about people in Friesland. It’s about Americans, and the members of Congress in particular.
Last week, congress decided to classify pizza as a vegetable. This way, pizzas find themselves on a par with stuff like carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, just to name a few examples.
Why did congress do this? The argument for classifying pizza as a vegetable is that there is a lot of tomato sauce on it. That would make pizza an excellent staple diet for school cafeterias. Critics of this decision mumble that the food industry-lobbyists have been at work here, and we suspect that they are right.
You see, the thing is that schools receive subsidies for the lunches they serve in their cafeterias on the condition that they contain a certain amount of vegetables. We once saw the results of a project in a school in Park city, Utah, where teachers asked children to poll family and friends about their most and least favorite food for Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, the turkey won hands down, and vegetables were at the bottom of the list.
The American Ministry of Agriculture published last week its budget and that included rules for school lunches. The Obama administration wants school kids to have healthier lunches; that means less potatoes, less salt and more vegetables.
The school lunch regulation even states that the tomato sauce on a pizza qualified as a vegetable, but that it had to be at least half a cup – and there is not that much tomato sauce on a pizza slice.
These new standards for cafeteria lunches would hit potato famers and pizza producers between the eyes; their markets would shrink considerably. Vegetable growers stand to gain by the legislation, but their lobby was less strong that that of the potato growers and the pizza producers. The congress decided that French fries (you never hear anybody speak about freedom fries anymore) and pizza must remain on the menu. That’s cheaper and besides, congrewss said, it is not up to the govdernment to tell kids what they ought to eat.
Food experts point out that the lobby brings basck memoties of the reasgan administration. Thirty years ago there was already an attempt to classify tomato ketchup as a vegetable.
It would be interesting to see how many members of the american congress are actually obese. Worldwide obesity is a growing problem and the americans are no stranger to this phenomenon. But when the a;lmighty dollar is at stake, school kids should not count on a caring attitude from their government.

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