It is at best ironic that America duped its families about food just as Americans gathered for the quintessential celebration of family and food – Thanksgiving. Congress gave us all permission to serve our children pizza as a vegetable.
Good health is perennially on the list of reasons any family has to be thankful, and food is among the most potent of influences on health – for good or for ill. The differential effects of pizza and a mixed green salad on health don’t change just because politicians play around with the lexicon.
If Government Fails to Protect Our Children’s Health
Parents and Grandparents Must Act on Their Behalf
The putative excuse for listing pizza as a vegetable – like ketchup before it – is the inclusion of tomatoes in the recipe. That would be ludicrous enough if pizza were mostly about tomato sauce, and if tomato sauce were all about tomatoes. Of course, pizza tends to be much about cheese, white flour and toppings that include pepperoni. The plot thickens in the vat where the tomato sauce is made.
Commercial tomato sauces, like ketchup, can and often do contain mildly surprising concentrations of salt and downright shocking additions of sugar. In fact, I have personally analyzed marinara sauces that, calorie for calorie, contain more added sugar than chocolate ice cream topping. Letting tomato sauce on its own qualify as a vegetable would be questionable enough. As for the fact that a tomato is technically a fruit – well, let’s not even go there.
Congress reached its preposterous judgment about pizza at the urging of lobbyists working on behalf of food companies working to protect their slice of the pie, as it were. Pizza is a good moneymaker in school cafeteria lines.
But we the people – the parents and grandparents in the United States – need not submit passively to such obvious, exploitative nonsense. We need not sit idly by as corporate interests trump interest in the well-being of our children. Not at a time when what used to be adult onset diabetes (i.e., type 2) becomes ever more common in children under age 10. Not at a time when cardiac risk factors proliferate in pre-teens. Not at a time when a reported 35 percent increase in the rate of stroke among 5 to14 year-olds demands nothing less than a crisis response.
We need not submit to such folly, fraught with such peril. We can, and should, say: No thanks!
We can say no thanks to superintendents, school boards, principals, and school food service directors. I can’t think of a reason a loving parent or grandparent would remain silent. We can say no thanks to the food companies that put this modest addition to their profits ahead of the dire prognosis facing our children – and theirs, for that matter. And we can say no thanks to members of Congress who bartered the fate of our children for the favors of the highest bidder. We can show them out, at the next election. And unless something springs readily to mind that matters more than protecting the health and potential of our kids – we certainly should.
At a holiday interlude that highlights the love of family and the great traditions of our country – I am thankful for the possibility that loving families can still shape the traditions of our country. When righteous indignation unites us, a nation of loving parents and grandparents can be the mightiest special interest group that ever was.
I have abundant cause to give thanks, and so I do. Among them is the fact that I live in a country that affords me, and you, many ways to say: No thanks!
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP is the founding director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine and Preventive Medicine/Public Health. He is the director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, CT. For more information visit http://www.davidkatzmd.com
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