When Did Pizza Become a Vegetable?

About one year ago, the Internet exploded in a frenzy over the decision by Congress to declare pizza a vegetable. How, and more importantly why, would Congress declare pizza a vegetable? Is it to skirt laws? Or are have they finally lost their marbles? Well, neither. What we have here is a case of the Internet flipping out without reading the facts. Seems like that happens more often than not.


The hullabaloo surrounding this non-controversy exploded last November, with numerous outlets and journalists jumping to conclusions and lashing out at Congress over this decision, citing lobbyist influence, and the desire for giant food companies to provide cheaper meals. Of course, a few outlets got it right, quelling the dissenters who will do everything they can to lash out at Congress without reading the required material.

First off, as the Washington Post makes clear, the argument isn’t over pizza specifically, but the tomato paste that goes into making the sauce. To be more specific, it’s about how much tomato paste counts as a single serving of vegetables.

You see, school lunch regulations stated that tomato paste was more nutritionally dense tha
n we give it credit for. Basically, an eighth of a cup of tomato paste has about as much nutritional value as a cup of vegetables. Obviously this is ludicrous, but it is what it is.

The Obama administration, however, sought to change this rule so that “..schools would credit tomato paste and puree based on actual volume as served.” Congress, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to block this, thus allowing tomato paste to retain it’s “extra nutrition credit” and for pizza manufacturers to declare their pizza to be healthier than it really is.

In actuality, one eighth of a cup of tomato paste actually requires half a cup of tomatoes to make, making it as nutritionally dense as, well, one half cup of tomatoes. So schools that serve pizzas can still call it a half-serving of vegetables and get away with it. Of course, tomato paste lacks key vitamins and minerals that other vegetables have, so the USDA recommends breaking vegetables down into specific categories so as to offer a wider array of options and cover all possible vitamins and minerals.

Once again we have a case of the Internet freaking out over nothing, because that’s what the Internet does best.

Posted on October 2, 2012 at 9:00 AM