Don't Count Pizza As A Veggie: Science Group

Fight over school nutrition

Children learn at a young age the distinction between pizza and vegetables.  The former, a favorite treat, that latter, something often pushed to the edge of the plate.

But the Center for Science in the Public Interest says Congress is ready to go forward with a legislation that would put pizza in the same class of nutrition as a serving of leafy greens.

"If finalized, this legislation may go down in nutritional history as a bigger blunder than when the Reagan Administration tried (but failed) to credit ketchup as a vegetable in the school lunch program," the group writes in a release. "Pizza should be served with a vegetable, not count as one."

The disputed legislation is an Agriculture Department spending bill that would create guidelines for school lunch programs.  In order to get federal subsidies for the meals they serve, schools need to meet standards set by the USDA.

The Agriculture Department introduced changes to the guidelines this year that were supposed to make school lunches a little healthier, by limiting the amount of potatoes served, reducing sodium, and increasing the use of whole grains.  The school lunch proposal is based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Companies that produce frozen pizzas, salt, and potatoes pushed back on the new rules, mounting strong lobby campaigns.  Those food makers found allies in conservative groups that believe that the new federal guidelines are an over reach of government power.

The final version of the spending bill released late Monday would reverse the USDA's changes and maintain the status quo in school lunches.

It also, in effect, makes pizza equivalent to a vegetable.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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