America's Pizza Lobby Has the Power to Sway Congress, Even if its Pizza Sucks

Talk about public-service journalism: Bloomberg is shining a spotlight the lobbying efforts of big pizza makers, some of which are based in DFW. Pizza Hut, for instance, spent nearly $700,000 supporting campaign efforts during the last two elections, 99 percent of which went to republicans.

The mega chain joins other large pizza companies, including Papa Johns, Domino's, Cici's and more, as a member of the American Pizza Community, a lobbying group fighting congress for the right to sell pizza by making sure tomato paste is considered a vegetable for school lunches, among other things. The APC claims that pizza is under fire, having been lumped into the same evil food category as burgers and fries.

Maybe the pizza industry wouldn't be so miffed if the government were a little more consistent about its desire to help Americans eat healthier diets. Five years ago, the USDA was pushing Domino's to up the cheese they put on every pie by 40 percent to soak up excess dairy. Now they're requiring big pizzerias to display exactly how many calories all that goopy cheese adds.

These labeling requirements are a big point of contention for the APC. The same laws that require McDonald's to display the 476 calories in a Big Mac on their menu board are being applied to the pizza guys without taking into account differences inherent in the businesses. Pizzas were initially required to be labeled as a whole pie -- all 4,000 calories -- instead of by the slice. That rule was successfully batted down in part by the APC.

Pizza manufacturers were also required to provide calorie counts for different types of pizzas, which the APC claims will require some pizzerias to post 34 million variations of nutritional information. They're now working on a Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act to address these labeling issues.

Still, if the APC really wants to disassociate itself from the likes of hamburgers and french fries, it might try rebranding its wares. Pizza doesn't have to be a deep dish grease bucket piled high with cheese and sausage. Pizzerias like Cane Rosso and Olivella's, here in Dallas, are doing well by focusing on Neapolitan style pies -- pizzas that couldn't be any further from a Whopper with cheese. Topped with crushed tomatoes, and sparingly adorned with fresh mozzarella, they're actually healthy. They also taste like something worth lobbying for.

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