• Tomatoes are fruit, after all

    I sat out the whole “pizza is a vegetable” brouhaha of last week, because I’ve found that these kinds of disagreements on nutrition are rarely straightforward. Yes, it’s ridiculous to say that pizza is a vegetable, and guess what, it’s actually not true that Congress was arguing it was. They were having a disagreement about tomato paste, and Sarah Kliff brings the data to show that I was right to sit this one out:

    It’s hard to make an argument that the difference between an eight of a cup of tomato paste and a half of a cup of fruit are that significant. Do I wish that children would eat more fruit and less pizza, in general? Sure. But that’t what we should be saying, not getting into esoteric arguments about minutiae that don’t matter.

    Do you disagree?

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    • I might be completely off base here, but I thought the issue was the contrast between debating vegetables versus balancing the budget. I guess I thought it was stupid to say pizza was a vegetable and didn’t think anymore about it, so I’m glad they weren’t doing that. But in my mind it’s not much better. It’s a little like getting a fatal diagnosis that isn’t factually correct and then revealing the correct diagnosis – but you’re still gonna die.

    • I immediately looked up the proposed USDA rule and am still not convinced that this was the right decision. Messaging aside (which I believe was brilliant), I am more concerned with the tradeoff here. Kliff did not examine the ingredient labels for tomato paste, which often includes processed sugars and high fructose corn syrup. I would much rather have nutrition standards that prize natural foods over those that are lobbied for by the Frozen Food Makers of America. I appreciate the data, but I do think Congress erred here.

      • Why are natural foods, such as an apple, better than tomator paste when they have higher higher ratios of fructose to sucrose than high fructose corn syrup that might be used in tomato paste? Natural foods can be superior to processed foods. The presence or absence of sugar or HFCS is not one of those reasons.

    • Coincidentally, last night’s The Good Wife had Eli Gold doing PR work for Big Cheese fighting with Big Fruits and Big Vegetables over the change from the Pyramid to the Plate and who got the biggest slice. Eli tried to get Big Corn to agree that they’re not Big Vegetables but really Big Grains. As Jamie Oliver’s UK and US school lunch shows demonstrated, the cheapest and easiest highly processed food is likely to be dumped on kids’ trays, regardless of the Ketchup is a Vegetable wars. BTW, is there a Tomato Paste that doesn’t have salt added?

    • This whole “pizzagate” fiasco was generated by the mindless blogosphere. The USDA never call pizza a vegetable. They called tomato sauce a vegetable… the rest of it is pointless jabbering.

    • Missing from all of this is any rationale for why the federal government should be micromanaging what schools are serving for lunch, and the fact that this ridiculous debate about pizza took place is a perfect reason why they shouldn’t be.

    • USDA subsidises lunches so it cares that the money isn’t spent on junk food. Some people would be upset if they bought junk. The outrage is the food industry corruption of the process to sell their junk.

      • “USDA subsidises lunches ”

        You identified the root of the problem.

        “food industry corruption of the process”

        And you also identified the inevitable outcome of doing this at the federal level.

        • So, if not the Federal level, who should feed hungry students? I don’t think the private sector or charity is capable of doing this… or should we just let them starve?

        • Our choices are not a federal student lunch program or starving children. I think local/state school systems are fully capable of deciding how to adequately provide lunch without needing a federal bureaucracy to do so. And by pursuing at the federal level we’ve increased the likelihood of special interests and lobbyists influencing the decision-making process, just like we’re seeing here.