How The US Government Briefly Tried To Regulate Frozen Pizza Toppings

We all know how much the U.S. government enjoys regulation. Whether it is regulating the accuracy of grocery store scales or determining organic labels, our government is involved with what ends up in our refrigerators and on our dining room tables. At present, there are four agencies that are involved with the regulation of food, according to the National Library of Medicine. They are the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Of the four agencies, it was the USDA that caused a big stir during the 1980s when it attempted to regulate aspects of the frozen pizza market. According to CNBC, the frozen pizza market of the early '80s was worth over $1 billion. It was therefore decided that owing to this massive market success, the government would have to intervene. And what exactly was this intervention targeted at? Cheese amounts and meat toppings.

Standards for cheese and meat toppings

The report by CNBC explains that because of the number of producers of frozen pizzas during the early 1980s, the federal government felt the need to step in to regulate cheese and meat topping standards. The FDA was in charge of actually standardizing the amount of cheese a plain frozen pizza could contain, while the USDA controlled the ratio of cheese to meat toppings on specialty pizzas.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the regulations contained percentages and specifications. The pizza needed to have a crust, cheese, and tomato sauce. The meat topping could be no more than 12% by weight, meaning that a 12-inch pizza would typically come with about 20 pepperoni slices. This rule did not apply to vegetable or plain cheese pizzas. While some in the dairy lobby were pleased that there would be a higher toppings ratio that favored cheese, consumers weren't having it. People simply didn't want the federal government to regulate their frozen pizzas. The USDA eventually dropped the requirement.