created over 2 years ago | Tagged:
The humble slice, we learn on pages 25 through 27 of the USDA’s report, is Americans’ No. 2 source of saturated fat and solid fats, largely because pizza is what the dairy industry might call an “effective cheese-delivery system.” Pizza is also the No. 3 source of sodium, beating out cold cuts and even bacon. After “grain-based desserts” like cakes and doughnuts, it’s the second-biggest source of calories for children and adolescents in a generation that has so far distinguished itself only on the scales.
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. The budget for the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the branch of the USDA responsible for writing and selling the dietary guidelines, is $9 million. By comparison, in 2009, 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.