Pizza industry officials respond to CSPI report

May 19, 2002

Saying that the marketplace should be allowed to determine what it wants to eat and how much to consume, leading officials from the pizza and restaurant industries harshly criticized the Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI) new study on pizza.

The study, released May 17 and available in the June issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter and in a new book, "Restaurant Confidential," said leading delivery/carry-out pizzas are loaded with saturated fat because they contain too many cheese and meat products.

"More cheese on your pizza means more crust in your arteries," CSPI nutritionist and study director Jayne Hurley said in a news release. "The saturated fat in the carpet of cheese is one of pizza's biggest problems -- adding fatty meats just makes matters worse."

The CSPI was especially critical of stuffed crust pizzas, which include a ring of cheese inside the edge of crusts. Two slices of Pizza Hut stuffed crust cheese pizza have 38 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 890 calories, according to the report.

"You need cheese stuffed into a pizza crust like you need reverse liposuction to force more fat under your skin," Hurley said.

But Pizza Hut president Mike Rawlings said his company was responding to customer desires, and that the chain also features health-oriented pizzas.

"Americans love cheese -- they ask us for more and more in our pizzas," Rawlings said in a statement released on May 17.

"Frankly, I think people are a little tired of being told what not to eat," Rawlings continued. "For those who want healthier options, we offer Veggie Lover's or Ham and Pineapple Thin 'N Crispy pizzas."

Steven Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, criticized the CSPI's methods.

" 'Restaurant Confidential' is typical, CSPI sensationalism that is not science-based or peer-reviewed," Anderson said in a May 17 statement. "Once again, they are offering nothing new and continue to vilify foods and the restaurant industry."

Anderson said most of the nutritional information used by CSPI for its survey is available from restaurants, which are advised to offer health-conscious alternatives in the food preparation process. The goal should be to encourage consumers to eat sensibly, he said, not abandon the foods they love most.

"It is overly simplistic and naïve to target particular foods or portion sizes as the sole cause for some Americans' battle with weight," he said. "Any way you slice it, people enjoy eating pizza, hamburgers, pasta, and many other popular foods; and they always will."

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