According to a recent report from the USDA, 1 in 8 Americans eats a slice or two of pizza on any given day. That’s because it’s delicious, right? Not entirely.
The USDA has been spending millions to boost pizza consumption. The agency’s dairy-checkoff program levies a small fee on milk and uses that money to promote dairy products like cheese. And, it turns out, pizza. In 2009, for example, Domino’s Pizza and a USDA subsidiary partnered to create a line of pies with 40% more cheese. The agency spent $35 million over three years, much of which went toward marketing. In 2011 the partnership created “kid-approved” pizza slices that are now available in more than 400 schools.
That’s good news for dairy farmers but not so great for American diets. For instance, a small, 10-in. cheese pizza from Domino’s contains about 1,200 calories–more than half an adult’s recommended daily amount. Not to mention the USDA’s report also found that pizza ranks as one of the top three sources of sodium in most diets. High sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure. Says Marion Nestle, an NYU professor of nutrition, food studies and public health: “Anything that adds calories–and cheese is right up there–makes it harder for adults and kids to maintain weight.”
This appears in the February 24, 2014 issue of TIME.