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That restaurants should be required to provide nutritional information

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adminadmin (PRO)
Recently, while dining at my favorite family restaurant (McDonalds), I discovered a terrifying truth. It turns out that Big Macs, the flagship meal of this fine establishment, are high in sodium.

I know that because I flipped the little cardboard box my burger came in upside down. There, printed in black and white, Ronald McDonald in his wisdom had thought to convey the nutritional content of his burger. I also found the same information when I searched it on the web. See, McDonalds is committed to offering their customers a range of choices to suit a range of diets and lifestyles. By providing information, they allow me to make wise decisions about what I should and should not eat.

If McDonalds, who have literally faced lawsuits over how unhealthy their food is, can be honest about the nutritional value of their food, why can't all restaurants do the same?

In this debate, I will present two awesome compelling reasons why they should be required to do so. First, though, let's define the resolution. A restaurant is a private establishment where people prepare food, sell the food to customers, and then those customers can eat the food on premises. A backyard BBQ is not a restaurant because the food is not being sold. A hot dog stand at a concert is not a restaurant because people eat it at the concert, not inside the stand. A livestock sale is not a restaurant because cows, sheep and pigs are not prepared food. The aforementioned examples are non-exhaustive. By nutritional information, I mean the same information that would normally be required by law for food of that type if it was sold in a supermarket. I would imagine this law would be easy to enforce and abide by, because this is already being done by many companies in food services. By providing, I mean that the information is readily accessible for anyone who wants to know it.

1. Encouraging healthy eating
Unhealthy eating is bad because it leads to unhealthy bodies - notably causing obesity, which in turn is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart attack, stroke etc. These are major killers in the developed world, and I assume most people reading this debate aren't fans of needless death. Even if it doesn't cause death, being bedridden with illnesses isn't a happy way to live, nor a great economic contributor. It follows that healthy eating is a great idea.

Let me explain how the resolution does this. By providing a means of comparing products in restaurants, customers who want to eat healthy can now choose healthier options that suit their dietary needs. They may be encouraged by the presence of such information to seek further clarification about the meaning of different aspects of nutritional information, to make more informed decisions. Customers may also develop an awareness that some restaurants offer generally more unhealthy food choices, and switch to restaurants with more healthy options. Armed with good nutritional information, customers who are already health-conscious will start to prefer these eateries, and attempt to convince others to do the same using platforms such as social media for viral marketing tactics. In turn, restaurants will change their menus to include more healthy options, in turn producing greater profits for their owners. Chefs will likewise be inspired to take courses to upskill in healthier cooking, as this would become a more in-demand skill among discerning restaurant owners seeking to improve their bottom line. With greater availability of healthier menus, people will eat more healthy choices.

I contend that healthy populations are the most important criterion on which this debate rests. Even if peoples' behaviors are not changed, the fact that this model would encourage such behaviors still renders it a net good.

2. Role of the state
By signalling that the state has an active interest in promoting healthy diets, people will also understand the importance of being healthy to wider society, and may be inspired to switch to a healthier lifestyle as a result. I contend that the purpose of government is to help people within that state survive and thrive. That is why governments provide essential services necessary for the continuation of social order, most obviously judicial systems and defense forces, but also funding services such as healthcare and education. These institutions help people stay alive so they can contribute back to the welfare of society. Seatbelt-type laws are a classic example of this principle.

This is not simply a right but an imperative, because the continued existence and viability of a state rests on it being competitive on a global scale in terms of keeping people safe, healthy and happy. When a nation does not do this, people either immigrate or the nation collapses, such as when the Aztecs were defeated in battle against smallpox, a disease that no longer exists because it was eradicated thanks to research funded by governments.

Therefore, governments need to use all powers at their disposal to ensure that people are leading happy, healthy lives. While some draconian measures to this effect may have negative effects on people's happiness, simply giving people more information seems like a no-brainer way to achieve this. In fact, governments already do. For example, food sold is generally already sold with a government-mandated nutritional information box. We already ensure restaurants have a certain degree of food safety. Why can't we do this?

The resolution is affirmed.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-03-18 04:27:40
| Speak Round
JackSpratJackSprat (CON)
I thank my learned counterpart for a great opening position.  For the purposes of this discussion, I agree with the premise of the two positions presented by my counterpart.    Encouraging healthy eating is very important, and the government has a foundational role in the health of its citizens.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will elaborate on my counterparts definition and say that nutritional information includes, but may not be limited to:

        • Calories
        • Sodium
        • Fats
        • Sugars

Whilst I do agree with the principals of the statements made by my counterpart, I will demonstrate that a forced mandate to restaurants would achieve a measurable gain versus the negative impacts such a mandate would have.   In addition,  I will demonstrate that there are other less intrusive methods to achieve the benefits outlined by my counterpart.

For the purposes of this argument, I am using US statistics as they were the easiest to find.  I put that the arguments and justification I present for the US region can be extrapolated for other western markets.   


Regulatory obligations have a financial implication on businesses.  Restaurants, in particular, are an incredibly low margin business.  The average profit percentage is 3-5%. (https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/average-restaurant-profit-margin).      Restaurants are very susceptible to negative impacts as a result of regulatory changes.    We have seen this in the US,  where one report shows 47% of restaurants have modified worker hours as a result of new minimum wage requirements.  (https://pos.toasttab.com/blog/restaurant-management-statistics).    That same report states that 16% of restaurants will stop new hiring because of the financial burdens of minimum wage changes.

For a restaurant to abide by a nutritional information requirement, there are a few additional costs the would be incurred.   I put that it is fair to assume that the nutritional information provided by a restaurant must be independently verifiable, in order to ensure the objective of informed decision making is maintained.  It could cost a restaurant up to $800 (USD) to have an individual menu item tested, as seen in this price table. for a laboratory in the US. (http://www.nutridata.com/feeschedule.asp)

For a cafe that has 10 different baked goods, that could be an extra $8000 cost just to get the nutritional information.  Not only is this a significant financial burden on a restaurant it would also greatly impact the variability in recipes and menu items.   We all know our restaurants that have a daily menu, a model that would not be possible under a forced nutritional information regulation.

While nutritional information is important for people to make healthy decisions, there is no evidence presented that demonstrates what the economic or social cost-benefit would be.  As stated, I agree that there is inherent value in promoting healthy living.  However, my counterpart has not provided any evidence that demonstrates a causal relationship between the improvement in eating behaviour by the restaurant consumer and the provision of nutritional information in advance of their intended purchase.   

I have demonstrated the financial costs associated with a mandatory providing of nutritional information for all restaurants would be prohibitively disruptive to the restaurant economy.   


As I stated, for the purposes of this argument I will agree that the government has a role in the health of their citizens.  However, the government also has an obligation to maintain a healthy economy and a framework for commercial transactions.   There will always be a battle of competing interests with a government.    Here we have health versus business battle.  

Many governments have nutritional guidelines as part of their national health policies.  Governments do and should take concerted effort into educating their citizens about the benefits of healthy eating, which includes a balanced diet.  The nutritional mandate requirement does not address communicating a balanced diet, or what percentage of the proposed foods address certain parts of the government's dietary recommendations.    You do not see a "This is 4 servings of vegetables" etc.

Therein I argue that the government's role should be focused, and relevant on regulations and initiatives that will yield the highest possible results, with the lowest cost on their other objectives.    The proposed mandate is incomplete from a messaging perspective.

As a result of the lack of causal evidence, the prohibitive restaurant costs to the proposal, and the incomplete messaging from the government render this proposal impractical to implement.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-03-18 19:26:23
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
At the outset of his argument, my opponent made two very important concessions. First, he agreed that both of my compelling reasons were, in fact, compelling. He agreed it was true that, were this resolution to be implemented, people would eat healthier, and that this was consistent with the role of the state. Second, he also agreed that my compelling reasons were important. This is critical, because it shows that my arguments were relevant to the resolution. At the crux of my arguments was my "most important criterion," that being healthy people. Not only has my opponent not challenged this, but he has implicitly agreed that judges of this debate should compare his points to mine, and see whose arguments lead to the most healthy people.

I presented, in the first round, a wide variety of ways that the resolution improves healthcare. In this round, I intend to take a critical look at the arguments raised by my opponent.

Role of the State
My opponent does not justify why the government needs to maintain a healthy economy, so let me clear that up. The economy consists of the production of goods and services for human health and well-being to be maintained or improved. In most western liberal democracies, consumers make choices that they feel will enhance their personal well-being, and/or that of their wider community, by purchasing goods and services using money. There is no competing interest between commercial enterprise and the health sector, unlike the framing my opponent provided, because people buy stuff to improve their lives. Private restaurants literally exist, for instance, to fulfill the health needs of hungry people. From an economic standpoint, these health benefits may be balanced against the externalities of unhealthy ingredients or methods of preparation, leading to possible health complications.

The real competing interest is between making customers aware of the risks of purchasing products, and keeping these risks hidden. While some businesses will be adversely affected by this because they are serving unhealthy food, customers will switch instead to healthier choices. They may cook food at home or order from a different restaurant. Just because people are more discerning when information is readily available to them, does not mean that we will likely see many famines. Food an inelastic good, which basically means people will buy it no matter what. It is fundamentally important for human health. So the food industry would not be affected at all.

However, even if this were not the case, we think that protecting the public health in the face of a clearly dangerous killer is nonetheless a vital part of government mandate. Cigarettes, for instance, are generally sold with warning labels indicating the dangers of smoking them. This is legitimate because stopping preventable diseases and keeping people healthy is more important than keeping tobacco bosses wealthy. Instead, people should be encouraged to spend on more healthier diversions, like books and musical instruments. Likewise, the government also has a role in creating economic activity, such as building and maintaining nice roads so people can go places like the beach and have fun.

My opponent criticizes that governments do not describe an ideal diet, which is what nutritional guidelines basically amount to. I have three responses to this. First, the ideal diet does not exist. It varies according to factors such as your genetics, your lifestyle, your environment etc. All diets have risks and benefits, and moreover, no diet has been perfectly researched. Even the best dietitians will make mistakes. This is why mandating that people eat particular diets is rarely a good idea. Second, even if it did exist, the provision of such guidelines would immediately be distrusted. People wouldn't follow them, it would be impossible to enforce, and they would need to change all the time anyway, so by my opponent's own "cost" analysis, such measures would be self-defeating. Third, even if governments could do more, taking steps in the right direction by providing increased messaging nonetheless falls under the government mandate. For example, just because seat belts don't save all lives in car crashes does not mean seat belts should not be mandatory. As a minor subpoint, some countries actually do additional guidelines for customers to this effect, and even where they don't, non-governmental organisations (such as the Heart Foundation) often also provide supplementary information on a broad range of food choices.

My opponent argues that restaurants would face higher initial costs of assessing the quality of their food. I would note that this externality is much cheaper than if it is passed on to customers (hiring a personal dietitian) or, most commonly, the state (when people get sick). A hospital bed represents much more than floor space, but expert care from highly qualified doctors and nurses, and lost wages / productivity, among other costs. It also means potentially denying another sick person care because the healthcare system could reach capacity more quickly. Aside from cost savings, restaurants should also take responsibility for externalities they cause, rather than expecting society to foot the bill on their behalf. This is why restaurants already have to pay for food safety certification.

My opponent attempts to demonstrate that this will force less-profitable restaurants out of business. First, I contend that this is a good thing. We already have a lot of restaurants that go bust under the status quo. Even Jamie Oliver, one of the most celebrated chefs in world history, has had to close many of his restaurants due to financial difficulties. This is because restaurants have low barriers to entry but high maintenance costs. By raising the barriers to entry, restaurants without much capital backing can be weeded out and there would be fewer closures, bringing greater certainty for investors, landlords etc. The remaining restaurants would thus gain more business and be a more attractive long-term proposition. Second, I have been unable to find a single instance where financing nutritional information has forced the closure of a food business. Many food businesses face these costs already without any issue. Restaurants are a legal exemption, and as I stated in round one, some restaurants already do this anyway. Third, the business profits of restaurants can endure a small hit if it will mean more customers because they will see that the food on offer is healthy. It is the unhealthy restaurants that have anything to fear from this, not the unprofitable. Fourth, while the cost may be as high as my opponent states, it may also be much lower. Testing companies may need to get more competitive if testing is in fact done more regularly. Under the status quo, con's own source shows the price is often much lower already.

Pro briefly mentions that menus would become more standardised. From a food safety perspective this is a good thing anyway, but often restaurants just serve the same meal with some minor variation (eg a different "fish of the day"). Given that in such recipes the changed ingredient already has nutritional information, I simply don't see there being a significant overhead. The whole reason why you can have something like Michelin stars is because people come to expect a certain quality of food from restaurants, and if the menu was totally different on a very regular basis, that probably wouldn't be a good thing.

Finally, pro contends that I have not evidenced the link between seeing nutritional information and making healthier choices. I would like to direct him to read the second paragraph under "encouraging healthy eating" from round one, where I presented no less than seven such links.

My opponent has not shown any mechanism by which withholding this information will make people healthier. Therefore, I win this debate.

The resolution is affirmed.

Return To Top | Posted:
2020-03-19 09:02:59
| Speak Round

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Posted 2020-03-22 09:23:38
Well with the distractions in life I did not answer in time.
Posted 2020-03-22 09:20:29
Oooh, this is going to be interesting. Let's have fun.

Posted 2020-03-15 07:37:28
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