predicaments associated with the modern way of life unfortunately consist of many different natures. But perhaps the most pressing genre is that of deteriorating health conditions. People are generally susceptible to a number of hazardous medical conditions and the prime reason for that is the type of diet that everyone adopts. According to the research conducted by Young and Nestle, “Overweight and obesity have increased sharply since the early 1980s in the United States and worldwide.” (Young and Nestle 1) This is a source of major concern since weight problems simultaneously give rise to chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, thereby reducing general level of life expectancy.
Due to the rapid augmentation of such concerns, the government of the United States has brought forward certain regulations that control portion sizes offered in restaurants. The implementation and reception of such a decree are open to debate, but needless to say, that this is a step that requires some sort of a middle ground in order to achieve it’s basically conceived goals. The general criterion for food portions is regulated around necessary caloric intake. According to the afore mentioned article by Young and Nestle, The U.S. food supply provides a marginal 700 kcal/day in contrast to the required caloric intake of 200-300 kcal/day. This only proves that regardless of opposing views, this is a serious and pertinent matter to consider.
But first we have to comprehend what portion sizes actually mean. Portion sizes are meant to denote a suitable quantity of food which in turn is an indicator to people about authentic nutritional content and appropriate intake. In the research compiled by Raats and Wills, titled “Consumer Response to Portion Information on Food and Drink Packaging” it is explained that consumers often describe portions as what they should be having as opposed to what they are likely to consume whence served a certain quantity. (Raats and Wills 23) This is a challenge because people may interpret what they want and what they need differently.
The question is not whether the American government should intervene and take up this particular challenge. The question is associated with the response that people have formed towards this maneuver. In order to understand the lines along with concerned parties have received this notion, we must first grasp the factors that shape portion determination.
As authenticated by Thomas and Mills, there are six elements which make a consumer shape their expectations with regard to dining. These elements are, “consistency, accuracy, ingredients, nutritional information, value and competency.” (Thomas and Mills 11) This refers to reliability, true information, health content, honest nutritional values, presentation, cost effectiveness and popularity. Chefs and consumers are expected to make rational trade-offs when trying to side with or against the U.S. Government.
Most chefs have been found to be of the opinion that large portions undermine health indeed. They also agree that cultural values and economic effectiveness make it absolutely necessary to supervise food portions. And they also seem to agree that smaller portion sizes not only encompass health concerns but also attach the grandeur of fine-dining to their food. (Condrasky et al. 1) Chefs recognize the significance of planning their menus, ingredients and presentations meticulously; therefore they are largely in support of the regulation in question. Also, they seem to be of the rather blunt opinion that it is up to the customers themselves to govern their eating behavior and hence it is customers’ own responsibility to eat out of what is served to them. Statistics in Condrasky’s article show that a vast majority of chefs, restaurant owners, and culinary entrepreneurs agree that portion sizes should be kept under a stringent check in order to help people monitor their health without compromising on the dining experience that they wish to attain utility out of.
The credibility behind this school of thought is easy to appreciate because it not only gives due importance to the problems of health but also keep quality and sophistication in check. So, health and utility both are taken complete care of, without compromising any element of the restaurant experience. According to this view, the U.S. government should very much exercise control over portion sizes because the common lay man does not have complete and authentic information available to them at all times. And even if they do, their own perception of portions and preferences may cloud their judgment as to how much they should actually eat.
These efforts are largely undermined, however, by the ever growing fast food chains and of course, the avid consumer. Larger fast-food portions in U.S. insinuate that fast food companies undermine the efforts towards portion reduction, thereby ignoring required caloric intake standards. (Young and Nestle 1) The primary reason for this is of course, economization and efficient profit maximization of ventures that will see the sunny side up for many years to come.
Consumers argue that people behave differently and hence have different preferences; therefore, a rigid caloric value cannot be slapped upon everyone. This is very much understandable and cements the idea that consumers should have the room to consume what they please provided they are formulating rational decisions. When consumers disagree with a particular portion size, they usually tend to think that the offered portion size is too small, instead of too big. (Raats et al. 16) One can encourage the consumer to choose the right caloric combination and make health-oriented decisions by using provided information, but one cannot have the absolute right to govern how much a person eats. This view obviously springs from an uproar to let consumers have the capacity to make their own nutritional decisions once they have valid and authentic information regarding what they are served.
So on one hand we have people trying to maximize their profit by negating portion decrees, we also see consumers asking for a right to choose with rationality, but on the other hand we have people supporting the strictness-for-health cause and also waving the banner of accentuating fine-dining. Both schools of thought offer ample justification and quite sensible stances for that matter. However, for the sake of the implementation of governmental laws, it is important that a middle ground be approached. It would perhaps be best for all parties concerned, whether the government, the customer or the culinary producer, to first and foremost reveal proper nutritional information in accordance with prescribed caloric necessities. Secondly, everyone on board must under all circumstances agree that the insurance of health is a goal that surpasses all other entrepreneurial and cultural implications. As long as the content and ingredients of the food are non-threatening to the consumer, then quantities can really be safely left for the consumer to manage. One cannot be serving poison and blaming the customer for taking it. Customer knowledge has to be coupled with producer concern. Health consciousness must be promoted by the government in order to make people appreciate the true essence of such a regulation.
Once this balance is achieved, it will become easier to not just uphold food related standards but also to garner people’s trust in the food industry. Such efforts will go a long way in ultimately helping people attain nutrition and have a fair shot at a fulfilling life. If such laws are effectively and wholeheartedly implemented, while keeping accord with all differing views, people are going to get utility in the short run and an enhanced life expectancy in the long run! The promise of a healthy and scrumptious life is something that no one can possibly disagree upon.
Condrasky, Marge, Ledikwe, J.H., Flood, J.E. And Rolls, B.J. “Chef’s Opinion of Restaurant Portion Sizes.” Obesity Vol. 15 (2007): n. pag. Web.
Raats, Monique M., and Wills, J.M. Food Consumer Behavior and Health. Proc. Of Consumer Response to Portion Information on Food and Drink Packaging. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 1-23. Print.
Thomas, Lionel, Jr., and Mills, J.E. “Consumer Knowledge and Expectations of Restaurant Menus and Their Governing Legislation: A Qualitative Assessment.”Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management (006): n. pag. Web.
Young, Lisa R., and Nestle, M. “Portion Sizes and Obesity: Responses of Fast-Food Companies.” Journal of Public Health Policy (2007): 238-48. Web.
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