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‘I went too far’: Iceland’s president regrets comments about pineapple on pizza

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Pineapple on pizza: Whether the thought of the sweet and savoury combo makes you queasy or if you are passionately #teampineapple, one thing’s for sure, it’s a topic that brings out strong emotions:

And that's true for all of us, whether you’re a regular pizza lover or, say, the president of a small nation, such as Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson.

It has been almost two years since President Johannesson, the leader of Iceland, famously triggered the great pizza topping debate of 2017, when he stated he was emphatically NOT in favour of pineapple on pizza. 

Gudni Thorlacius JohannessonEPA

On a visit to a school in northern Iceland, not only did the president notoriously share his feelings about the controversial topping, he told the young audience that if he had the power, he would pass an actual law banning pineapple on pizza – a statement he now regrets. 

"That's where the influence of this office sort of, yeah, got the better of me," Johannesson admitted this week on the Canadian radio programme As It Happens. "I went a step too far."

If you’re worried about your pizza consumer rights, don’t be. As Iceland's democracy stands, he has never had the power to pass any of his own laws. But that didn’t stop the matter becoming a bit of an international incident in 2017.  

The twittersphere was divided at the time – some stood shoulder to shoulder with Iceland’s president: 

While others only had one thing to say – pass us the pineapple. 

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ardently defended the cheese-and-fruit combo. 

Now, you may think Hawaiian pizza (topped with pineapple and ham) is originally from Hawaii, but it is actually a Canadian invention. Sam Panopoulos, a Canadian cook and restaurant owner, is credited with coming up with the recipe in the 1960s and even he waded in to defend the pizza at the time. 

To “calm these stormy waters”, Johannesson explained, “I issued a statement, a presidential statement, on pineapple on pizza.” 

He used his radio appearance this week to further clarify his political position on the pizza topping: "As much as I do not like pineapple on pizza, the individual freedom of having the topping of your choice overrides that."

Still, you’re not likely to find him chomping on a piece of pineapple pizza any time soon.

"I have nothing against pineapples, but when they're put on pizza they get all sort of mushy," he said. 

"Great", we say. More for us. 

He did suggest an alternative for like-minded pineapple naysayers - seafood on pizza. A ploy perhaps to support Iceland’s fishing industry?

"Iceland is a nation of fisherfolk and, you know, if everyone put seafood on their pizzas, that would be a very nice thing to do," he said. 

“… in all honestly, seafood on pizza is good. You should try it."

Not everyone was convinced, though.

It’s been a tough week for pizza. Not only have we had to grapple with our feelings about seafood on dough, we’ve also had to come to terms with the fact bananas on pizza is now an actual thing. 

But whether you’re into fruity toppings or don’t mind a fishy one, at least we know we have the freedom to eat whichever pizzas we want. Even if it is bananas. 

This article was originally published on 21 February 2017.