Ethical Producer or Responsible Consumer?

Image result for bob's burgers uncle teddy

Do restaurants and other outlets owe their customers anything beyond a product? Bob’s Burgers questions the grey area between ethical production and irresponsible consumption. “Friends with Burger-fits” begins with Bob’s most loyal customer summarizing his most recent trip to the doctor. “Blah, blah, cholesterol through the roof, heart attack, blah…cheeseburger and fries please!” Teddy eats at Bob’s Burgers every day, and suddenly Bob feels responsible for his poor health. He even has nightmares where he is holding Teddy’s heart and pouring French fry grease directly into it. Bob tries to sneak a veggie burger into Teddy’s diet (he notices), and exercising with Teddy. The plotline follows their relationship on a professional and personal level – what happens when that line blurs? Does Bob have a responsibility to his customers’ health or because of Teddy’s friendship?

The message of this episode reflects an interesting conundrum in capitalism. If customers are willing to pay, what obligation does a profit-based business have to care about the health of its patrons? Resources on losing weight generally recommend eating at restaurants as little as possible because their obligation is to make the food taste as good as possible (so, BUTTER and cream), but not healthy.  But is it an overstep, for example, when the New York government banned extremely large soda cups because it encourages soda consumption? What about the restaurant in Vegas that lets people who weigh more than 350 pounds eat free? I think food sales have the obligation to educate the consumer, the way corporate restaurants like McDonalds are now required to post calorie information on the menu. However, people are drastically uninformed when it comes to nutrition science, and calorie estimates are found to be mostly inaccurate and under the actual calorie content of most menu items. People need more easily available and clear information about nutrition in order to make the most informed decisions, even if they are unhealthy ones.

Elyse Conklin

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9 Responses to Ethical Producer or Responsible Consumer?

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I do agree that restaurants should be responsible in terms of displaying the nutritional value of the food they serve and that it is also the responsibility of the consumer to be able to make the decision of what they are putting in their bodies. In context of the episode, I believe there was a different degree of concern. It seemed that Bob was concerned from a consumer standpoint, but also as Teddy’s friend. He cares about his health. Though Bob constantly jokes about Teddy only being a customer to him, especially in this episode, this is obviously not the case. In relation to consumerism, people must be provided with clear and concise information from restaurants, especially since restaurants consistently put harmful additives in their foods.

    -Shelby Halliman

  2. mediaphiles says:

    This is an incredibly interesting idea. Bob’s Burgers does a great job of addressing ideas which are never discussed in full detail by other shows. In terms of this conundrum, I think the idea of agency is important. People can do what they want to do. Period. –Serena Daya

  3. mediaphiles says:

    On a different topic besides health and more on the responsibility or a company owner to a customer, this reminds me of entrepreneurship. More specifically it reminds me of non-profit entrepreneurship verses for-profit. I believe that all should be more closely aligned wth non-profited just for the sole sake of helping people, but that’s just me. I think there are a lot of businesses though that are solely based for-profit. They don’t care what happens to their customers as long as they are making money. I think this type of business eventually comes to bite you in the butt though when you get a reputation like McDonald’s has of being unhealthy.
    -Nicolette McCann

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I think that you make a very good point with your post. But I think that business is business, and while I agree that McDonalds for example should post calorie information or their menu I also don’t think they have to worry about people’s health. It’s the consumers fault if they decide to eat unhealthy, they are trying to make money by selling a product and it’s the consumers fault if they buy it. I like how you used the show to make your argument. – Jon Baquero

  5. mediaphiles says:

    This reminds me of an episode from Parks and Recreation. I think it’s in Season 5, newly elected Council Woman Leslie Knope is trying to pass legislation that would limit the size of drinks that can be sold by fast food places like Paunch Burger (I’m pretty sure it was directly inspired by the NY soda tax). The largest cup size is basically a bucket that Leslie can fit over her entire head. I wish more shows would engage with health issues like this as often as they do social issues. Obesity rates have skyrocketed over the last few decades, and at a certain point you have to wonder if it qualifies as a dangerous epidemic that governments, federal and local, have a responsibility to combat. Thus, I agree it’s the responsibility of the business to provide its customers with the information they need to make well-informed decisions.

    –Kevin Pabst

  6. mediaphiles says:

    Elyse, I think that you addressed some very interesting points. I definitely agree with you about the importance of consumer awareness when it comes to nutritional facts. Although it is minimal progress, I am happy that most menus are now displaying calories. By doing so, the consumer is able to better contemplate whether or not he or she still wants to purchase/eat that food item. I think it is definitely important that the business informs the customers about what they are putting in the food they are serving!
    -Allie Kleinman

  7. mediaphiles says:

    People who eat fast food regularly also tend to be lower in socioeconomic status. They do not necessarily choose to take their family fast food restaurants all the time, it is just more economically feasible than eating healthily. Fast food restaurants should provide healthier food all around, but many do have salads and other healthier products to choose from, but they tend to be more expensive and thus chosen less frequently. It doesn’t matter if the customer is informed of how many calories and such is in certain foods, what matters is affordability. There are not as many obese rich people as obese poor people.

    -turner arrington

  8. marymdalton says:

    This post and resulting discussion thread fascinate me.

  9. mediaphiles says:

    Yes – the one reply I have is to Turner’s comment. Agreed that the intersection between class, education, and obesity is true, but I think you are perpetuating a myth that eating healthy is more expensive. To me, that rings very false. As a vegetarian who frequently eats vegan (on a minuscule grad student stipend at that), I get frustrated when people accuse my diet of being classist. LOL I eat cheap lentil soup all the time and the same rice and beans nearly every week. It takes a lot of planning and effort.
    Fresh produce is not that expensive, as well as frozen vegetables, fish, and grains, beans, etc etc. Even at the right places, the same $6 you would spend at McDonalds getting a combo meal could get you $6 of healthier foods elsewhere. The lack of education component about budgeting, eating smart, and understanding what is actually healthy and what to do with it, combined with the self-defeating attitude poverty instills within people makes for a more complex, but accurate, picture of what contributes to the obesity epidemic.


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