THE PIZZA LOBBY, which has come under scrutiny from healthy food advocates over past few years, is seeking to turn the tide of battle in their favor now that the Republican Party is firmly in control of both houses of congress. According to a Bloomberg report both the fresh and frozen pizza industries “tend to support Republicans. In the last two election cycles, Republican federal candidates received about $1.3 million from the industry, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics of major companies and those listing “pizza” in their name. Democrats received just $157,000.” Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Schwan and Dominos each overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates contributing 98.9%, 86.8%, 78.3% and 79.3%, respectively, of their total political contributions to Republican candidates and groups in the 2012 and 2014 elections.
One of the main battles over the past few years in the “war on pizza” has been over federal nutrition standards for school lunches, which were introduced in 2010. The regulations targeted pizza’s dominance in school cafeterias where almost $500 million worth of federally subsidized school lunch pizza is served each year. When the Department of Agriculture released the details of the regulations in 2011, it included a provision that increased the minimum amount of tomato paste required to be counted as a vegetable serving. The reason for including this provision was “under the existing rules, tomato paste is given extra credit toward a vegetable serving because it’s made of concentrated tomatoes. So 2 tablespoons of tomato paste — roughly the amount on a slice of pizza — is counted as a half a cup, or the equivalent of one vegetable serving” and therefore, “for school lunch purposes, a slice of pizza was considered a serving of vegetables.”
The pizza industry quickly mounted a defense and “in testimony before Congress in August of that year, Karen Wilder, chief nutritionist for Schwan Food, said many foods packed with nutrients, including pizza, risked elimination from school lunch by the proposed rules. A subsidiary of Schwan supplies 70 percent of school lunch pizza.” In November 2011, Congress came to the pizza lobby’s defense, blocking the Department of Agriculture from making some of the proposed nutrition changes. ATVN reported that “Republicans on the House Appropriation Committee said their changes would ‘prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and to provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals.’”
With Republicans, who as previously shown are overwhelmingly supported by the pizza lobby, now in control of both chambers of congress, the industry may seek to further reduce the rules and regulations of the food industry. Lynn Liddle, executive vice president for communications, investor relations, and legislative affairs at Domino’s Pizza and chair of the American Pizza Community (APC), “hopes Congress will consider tweaking the menu-labeling law to make it more favorable to pizza sellers. As for the American Pizza Community, she envisions a formidable, and enduring, champion for pizza, one capable of changing the food’s fortunes in Washington and elsewhere.”