B.S. is Fattening: Pizza Edition

Lindsay Beyerstein

The nation’s pizza chains are lobbying to keep calorie counts off menus on the grounds that there are simply too many possible combinations of pizza toppings. In an inspired bit of sophistry, the quants at Domino’s calculated that their menu can generate 34 million possible pizzas, too many to list on a menu board. 

Silliy and media-savvy are not mutually exclusive, however. This is exactly the kind of red herring that lazy reporters gobble up. In yesterday’s Washington Post, the 34 million figure gets top billing and serves as a frame for the story.

A light bulb goes on when people hear about all the possible combinations for pizza,” said Lynn Liddle, a Domino’s executive and chair of the coalition. They start to realize how difficult it would be to take a one-size-fits-all approach.” [WaPo]

We don’t learn until the twentieth paragraph that pizza chains would only need to list calories for the items they choose to present on their menu boards — not every possible pizza combination.” So, the Post chose the industry frame, knowing full well that the statistic is irrelevant.

In the twelth graph we learn that, under the proposed guidelines, chains would post a calorie range for items that can be customized. But such ranges can be so wide for pizza that they’re useless, the pizza makers said.” More likely, they don’t want us seeing that a single slice of a large customized Domino’s pizza can pack anywhere from 230 – 400+ calories, and wondering how much triple cheese contributes to the spread.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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