I have a new piece in New York Magazine this week about the USDA’s war on pizza — and why it’s a smart move.
Pizza, of course, is a tough food to take on. After burgers and fries, it is our most beloved food. Worse, it’s a potentially easy win for right-wing culture warriors, who are intent on portraying the Obama Administration as leaders in a progressive plot to take away our right to fast food.
But, as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines point out, pizza is the number-one source of calories for children and adolescents and the number-two source of saturated fat and solid fats for all Americans. To my mind, it’s time for a little nanny-statism to save us from ourselves.
As I write in the piece:
The problem has been that for 30 years, until the new guidelines were issued last Monday, the government has refused to brand specific foods—especially foods with powerful lobbies behind them—as the public-health enemies they can be. Instead, it translated its concerns into positive-eating messages. Eat less meat to help lower saturated-fat intake became “Eat more lean meats,” a politically correct statement that has proved utterly unpersuasive as dietary advice.
This timidity also left the field wide open to food marketers, who had no qualms about telling us how they think we should get our calories…According to Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the fast-food industry spent $4.2 billion pitching offerings like Domino’s Wisconsin 6 Cheese pizza, a beast layered with mozzarella, Cheddar, provolone, Parmesan, feta, and Asiago—none, so far as anyone can tell, from Wisconsin—and Burger King’s 2,500-calorie pizza burger, formerly on sale at its Times Square Whopper Bar. Preschoolers see three commercials for fast food each day; teens see five. So much for the idea that it’s un-American for anyone to tell you what to eat.
Whether Americans will listen any more carefully to this set of guidelines than they have in the past is anyone’s guess. But I think the USDA has taken an important step.
What do you think? Will it help?