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In the Star Trek: TNG episode The Price we discover that the Enterprise replicators have a nutritional program which restricts which foods crew members can replicate:

TROI: And, computer, I would like a real chocolate sundae.

COMPUTER: Define real in context, please.

TROI: Real. Not one of your perfectly synthesised, ingeniously enhanced imitations. I would like real chocolate ice cream, real whipped cream

COMPUTER: This unit is programmed to provide sources of acceptable nutritional value. Your request does not fall within current guidelines. Please indicate whether you wish to override the specified programme?

What rank is required to override the nutritional value program? If any crew member or passenger is able to override this program by just telling the computer to replicate the item they want, then what is the point of the restriction?

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    Honestly this just sounds like a question about the request from the computer and not some draconian kindergarten control over a person's food intake that you'd have to get a signed permission slip from the hallway monitor for =) – Patrick Hughes Nov 26 '15 at 23:09
  • But what If you were overweight, and the computer knew it? Of course, no one was diabetic then, or allergic to anything, but overweight, yes. – ab2 Nov 27 '15 at 0:22
  • come to think of it has there ever been a veritably overweight character in star trek – revenant Nov 27 '15 at 3:04
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    Many smartphones display a warning if you set your volume too loud (potentially causing hearing damage). But they don't require security clearance to override safe volumes. Likewise, many cars with traction control systems allow you to manually override those systems. Similarly, many manufacturing facilities have safety protocols that can be manually overridden. The point is, you can have a default safe state but still allow the human operator to override that in particular circumstances based on their own judgement. – Lèse majesté Nov 27 '15 at 3:14
  • I consider Cyrano Jones overweight. – ab2 Nov 27 '15 at 19:00
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IIRC Troi did not enter a security code, she simply told the computer "yes, override the programming" which says to me that there is no actual security code needed, it's simply a matter of telling the computer to "do it thus" and "yes I really want it that way".

As to the why, it's not so much a restriction as it is default programming and it's probably programmed that way to prevent certain conditions including obesity, malnutrition and even being underweight.

If I understand replicator tech right, it could conceivably make a chocolate sundae that tastes completely right yet contains only a fraction of the caloric content a naturally made one would have while at the same time having nutrients and vitamins not normally found in chocolate sundaes.

TL:DR

The replicators are programmed for the nutritional convenience of the crew and passengers so they don't have to decide what they need to eat and can eat what they want to eat.

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Canon

Assuming the same protocols prevent you from making alcohol as prevent you from making real chocolate, the answer is that whatever restrictions there are can be bypassed by a Lieutenant. In the TNG episode Up the Long Ladder, Worf is able to switch the replicator from synthehol to alcohol at the merest touch of a button.

In the b.g. a group of Bringloidi cluster about a food dispenser. Danilo leads Worf to the wall unit and pushes past the waiting tinkerers.

[Worf presses a button]

DANILO (continuing) You see, lad, every moment of pleasure has to be purchased by an equal moment of pain. (to the wall unit) Whiskey.

A glass MATERIALIZES. Danilo tries a belt. Makes a face. After a lifetime of drinking potato whiskey this is really poor stuff -- far too refined.

DANILO (continuing) Terrible.

It's not clear whether this option is also available to civilians.

EU Canon

In the EU novel Star Trek: The Next Generation: Debtor's Planet, civilian Ralph Offenhouse is able to switch the replicator to real alcohol without any involvement from a Starfleet officer.

“Why? Simple.” Offenhouse went to the replicator. “Two vodka martinis, with olives,” he said. The replicator produced a pair of conical glasses, and he carried one to Troi. “You were born into this century. I wasn’t. I need to pick up the background, schlock and all. A good businessman does things like that.”

[later]

Halfway to the turbolift, Deanna Troi noticed that the artificial gravity was oscillating badly. The deck wobbled under her feet as she went to the nearest comm panel. “Troi to La George, I mean Fordie, I mean—are you there?” “Deanna?” Geordi La Forge sounded puzzled.

“There’s trouble with the grabbing art, I mean the artigrav, on deck, uh, the deck where I am. Right here.”

  • "After a lifetime of drinking potato whiskey this is really poor stuff -- far too refined." So he didn't like it because it was too smooth? – JAB Aug 13 '17 at 4:03
  • @JAB - That's precisely the problem. – Valorum Aug 13 '17 at 13:58

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