Pizza Next Target of 'Food Police,' Consumer Group Says

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The same group that said Chinese food, popcorn and soft drinks were no good for us, is now targeting another of America's favorite food items - pizza.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) releases a report Friday, detailing its nutritional analysis of the pizza served at some of America's most successful restaurants. The report will also appear in the June newsletter of CSPI's Nutrition Action Healthletter.

Among the findings expected are comparisons of pizza's nutritional value with other fast foods. CSPI is headed by consumer food advocate Michael Jacobson and has previously criticized the nutritional value of movie theatre popcorn, Chinese food and soft drinks.

Jeff Cronin, spokesman for CSPI, told CNSNews.com, "We analyzed calorie, fat, saturated fat and sodium content of pizzas from Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Papa John's Pizza, Little Caesars, CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) and Pizzeria Uno."

Cronin explained, "We are going to give consumers tips on how to make pizza a more healthful meal." The recommendations are expected to include ordering pizza with half the cheese and avoiding [cheese] stuffed crust pizza.

Representatives of the food industry are already firing back, labeling the authors of the pizza report, the "food police" and criticizing them for "thinking people are stupid."

John Doyle, co-founder of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy arm of the restaurant and food and beverage industry, criticized CSPI as "food police" and "food nannies."

"There's no surprise here. This is the same old, same old," Doyle said.

"Their whole raison d'etre is to tell people how to live their lives, because their presumption is people don't have enough common sense to make the right choices," Doyle explained.

Doyle called CSPI's recommendation to order pizza with less cheese an insult to consumers. "[CSPI] seems to be enthralled by the obvious. If you order less cheese, you will have fewer fat grams. It doesn't take a press conference to figure that one out," he stated.

Doyle believes the new report is part of the movement that "thinks people are just too stupid to make their own choices about food."

He criticized CSPI for its food advocacy policies. "They want to tax foods that they don't like out of people's reach. They want to mandate food choices through taxation and outlet restrictions [like] zoning requirements to reduce the number of fast food restaurants," Doyle added.

CSPI's "ultimate goal is to sell newsletters, according to Doyle. "They can't sell newsletters unless they get ink and they can't get ink unless they sensationalize their findings, which is what they do day after day."

Cronin of CSPI, countered that "for all their talk about 'consumer freedom,' the restaurant industry doesn't provide enough choices for consumers to choose healthful selections."

Cronin added that restaurants currently provide "huge portions loaded with calories."

Doyle said restaurants simply "give the public what the public orders."

"If tomorrow they wanted to live like CSPI adherents and eat raw carrots and tofu then that's what would be on the menu. But people like choices," Doyle said.

"They want to tell you what to eat. And you can't get much more personal than the choice you make about what you eat for lunch and dinner and they want to make that choice for you," Doyle said.

E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.

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