Organic Consumers Association

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The Pizza Lobby in Washington Spent on the Republican Party and Got What They Wanted

Every time Congress, whether it be the Senate or the House of Representatives, gets waylaid because the Republican Party is pulling some bullshit, we get images of White House staffers bringing in stacked boxes of pizza. There’s a few reasons for that. One is that everybody loves pizza.* The other is that pizza companies have banded together over the years to make sure that nutritional guidelines conveniently push them outside of the “fast food” boundary. This is something that has hurt other—very similar—industries, Bloomberg explained this move a couple of years ago. 

More recently, though, pizza has become a target, lumped into a nutritional axis of evil along with French fries and soda. New federal nutrition standards for school lunches, part of a 2010 law, squarely targeted pizza’s dominance in cafeterias. Menu-labeling rules, which take effect later this year, have seemed particularly onerous to pizzeria owners. And in the popular imagination, no less than First Lady Michelle Obama and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, though they claim to love the stuff, have emerged as enemies of pizza in their push for healthier school lunches. “I hear people say, ‘We would like to improve the school lunch program, but the kids, all they want to do is eat pizzas and burgers,’” Colicchio said in testimony to Congress in 2010. “We are adults here. It is up to us to do better.” [...]

Pizza advocates have taken a different, more combative tack. They’ve separated themselves from other food groups in Washington to become their own lobbying force. They’re not throwing money around — pizza’s biggest spenders devoted less than $500,000 to lobbying last year and just $1.5 million in political contributions in the last two election cycles. But they have notched some successes, proving that under the right circumstances, firm resolve and a thin crust can still be persuasive in Congress.

The lobby continues to take on quite a few things. FDA regulations asking for nutritional information to be present on menus for one. The frozen pizza industry had their own set of issues, as they sold to schools and getting hit with nutritional guidelines that don’t allow them to call tomato paste a vegetable side, was a big threat to their sales.

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