House protects pizza as a vegetable

Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:50am EST
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By Lisa Baertlein and Charles Abbott

(Reuters) - The House of Representatives dealt a blow to childhood obesity warriors on Thursday by passing a bill that abandons proposals that threatened to end the reign of pizza and French fries on federally funded school lunch menus.

The scuttled changes, which would have stripped pizza's status as a vegetable and limited how often French fries could be served, stemmed from a 2010 child nutrition law calling on schools to improve the nutritional quality of lunches served to almost 32 million U.S. school children.

The action is a win for the makers of frozen French fries and pizza and comes just weeks after the deep-pocketed food, beverage and restaurant industries successfully weakened government proposals for voluntary food marketing guidelines to children.

"It's an important victory," said Corey Henry, spokesman for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). That trade association lobbied Congress on behalf of frozen pizza sellers like ConAgra Foods Inc and Schwan Food Co and French

fry makers McCain Foods Ltd and J.R. Simplot Co, the latter best known as a supplier to fast-food company McDonald's Corp.

"Our concern is that the standards would force companies in many respects to change their products in a way that would make them unpalatable to students," Henry said.

Other AFFI members include H.J. Heinz Co, General Mills Inc and Kraft Foods Inc.

The school lunch provisions were a small part of a mammoth bill that provides money for all parts of the federal government. The House sent the bill to the Senate for final Congressional approval.   Continued...

<p>A Numero Uno pizza is served at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago January 20, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress</p>