By Dr. Mercola
When it comes to nutrition, it is very important that you have the right to freedom of choice and information. Unfortunately, organizations such as the American Dietetic Association (now calling itself the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or AND) are threatening your freedom of choice about health and nutrition.
The AND has pushed state laws to block almost anyone, except their registered dietitians (RDs), from legally giving nutritional advice.
Their mission is to censor the broader nutrition community, which includes many well trained and educated practitioners, such as clinical nutritionists, pharmacists, naturopathic doctors and traditional naturopaths, acupuncturists, herbalists, nurses, mental health professionals, homeopaths, personal trainers, and the like.
Though it may seem incredible that laws have been crafted to create a de facto monopoly for one private group, this is exactly what’s happened. Why should you be concerned?
Your most fundamental tool for staying healthy is your ability to pursue different avenues and philosophies of care, and based on that information, decide which are best for you.
If your goal is optimal health, you have to address your nutrition—it’s the most fundamental factor. Just as you can choose from a number of different healthcare providers for your medical needs (MDs, DOs, NDs, ANPs, chiropractors, etc.), you should also be free to choose your nutrition practitioner.
The Nutrition Monopoly Is Beginning to Crumble
For decades, the broader nutrition community, which includes a diverse set of practitioners using tools of nutrition integrated into various kinds of practice, was not organized as a cohesive group. Legislators were hearing from only the well organized and heavily funded dietitians.
Dietetic licensure bills, designed to keep everybody else out, have met little resistance and have been signed into law in state after state. With little to no credible evidence, legislators have been sold on scare stories of potential harm to the public and misinformation about other trained and qualified professionals. But the tide is turning!
Over the last two years, no state has passed a law giving dietitians exclusive practice rights. This is largely due to the efforts of Center for Nutrition Advocacy,1 tirelessly spearheading this work, organizing and advocating for the broader nutrition community. The Center helps build coalitions in any state where a dietetics monopoly needs to be prevented or overturned. Why is such a coalition necessary?
Desperate to protect their monopoly, the well funded AND will stop at nothing to hunt down and push over anyone standing in their way. If you think this is an exaggeration, let’s take a look at the evidence.
ANH-USA Uncovers Devious Activity by State Dietetic and Health Boards
The extreme measures the establishment is willing to take to protect their nutrition monopoly is quite shocking. In an exclusive report, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH-USA) reveals finding government surveillance, undercover sting operations, and investigations of nutrition professionals into the alleged crime of “practicing nutrition without a license.”2
According to ANH-USA:
“These actions, together with the levying of criminal penalties, have been undertaken by state health departments and state dietetics boards that are enforcing monopolistic laws sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. More often than not, they are supported by local law enforcement or the offices of state attorneys general.
The AND—formally the American Dietetic Association, or ADA—is not a medical organization, but a trade group that represents the interests of Registered Dietitians (RDs, who are certified by the AND’s credentialing arm). The AND has about 74,000 members.
These non-RD nutrition professionals are being targeted by these states’ RD monopoly laws, despite the fact that many of them have advanced degrees and a tremendous number of clinical hours to their credit. They are being prosecuted for ‘practicing dietetics without a license’ or for referring to themselves as ‘a nutritionist’ in media or marketing materials.”
One of AND’s key strategies is to create a dietetics board, comprised of RDs, to enforce the law in any state that passes an RD monopoly bill. This board can levy hefty fines against any nutritionist who is not an RD, put practitioners out of business, and even urge state Attorneys General to file criminal charges, allegedly to “protect the public health.”
After combing through three years of records, ANH-USA failed to find even one case of an unlicensed nutrition practitioner causing harm to a patient, and not one consumer complaint had ever been filed. In fact, the only complaints were those filed by RD board members themselves.
In other words, no evidence whatsoever could be found that an open and competitive market for nutrition services endangers public health and safety. As of May 2013, only 24 states had passed restrictive nutrition counseling laws. The remaining states realize that this push has nothing to do with protecting the public, and everything to do with eliminating the competition.
The Steve Cooksey Witch Hunt
Organizations like AND are trying to use the legislative system to create an unfair monopoly in the same way physicians have (via the AMA). Their goal is simple: eliminate the competition. Paleo Blogger Steve Cooksey found himself in exactly that position—targeted by the AND because he was considered to be “the competition.”
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition launched an attack on Cooksey’s blog featuring nutritional principles of the Paleo Diet, accusing the blogger of practicing nutritional counseling without a license. In response, he filed a lawsuit against the board for violating his First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, his story is not unique.
Similar witch-hunts are being conducted across the country. In 2012, the Department of Health devoted 681 hours, at a cost of $19,857, to investigating those practicing nutrition without a license, which represented a 229 percent increase over the previous two years.Telling people to “eat their vegetables” may land you in jail, or hip deep in legal expenses—or worse. And all of this effort is to protect the public from a risk that doesn’t even exist.
The AND has even stooped so low as to offer prizes to its members for spying and snitching on the competition. In internal documents leaked to Forbes by outraged AND members, the goal and strategies to limit marketing competition are openly discussed, including spying on private citizens and conspiring to use the monopoly laws against them.3
For example, RDs in MI participated in a “Documentation of Harm Contest.”4 Those who completed and submitted the most “Documentation of Harm” forms were eligible to win free registration to Michigan’s annual conference. Documentation of Harm forms, used in every state now, are essentially a complaint form filled out by an RD to target unlicensed nutritionists caught in the “dangerous” act of giving dietary advice. In 2012 AND unveiled a program to train RDs to “hunt for harm” and report it. In MA RDs are encouraged to question each client and even the RDs own relatives about non-RD practitioners they have seen, and to “help” the client fill out the complaint forms! These completely unvetted tattle tales are then offered to legislators as evidence.
Continuing Education Brought to You by… Kellogg, Coca-Cola and ConAgra!
The dietary advice provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and their minions is quite poor because it’s based on information from the processed food industry. You may not be aware that the AND is partnered with and sponsored by junk-food giants, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, and Kellogg. Consequently, dietary advice from many RDs is likely to be heavily biased by information from food-industry bigwigs.
Case in point: the AND’s annual conference is often called “the world’s largest meeting of food and nutrition experts.” Interestingly, these conferences are absent of any true nutritional experts whose knowledge could make a positive impact on Americans’ health. But they do showcase numerous representatives from processed food and junk-food giants. Here is a profile of AND’s food industry sponsorship:5
- In 2001, AND listed 10 food industry sponsors; their 2011 annual report lists 38
- Since 2001, the most loyal AND sponsor is the National Cattleman’s Beef Association
- ConAgra and General Mills have been AND sponsors for 10 of the last 12 years; Kellogg and the National Dairy Council for nine of the 12
- At the expo, based on square footage, only about 12 percent of the exhibitor floor space was occupied by fruit and vegetable vendors—the remainder was occupied by processed food representatives
- The credentialing arm of the ANA offers “continuing education” provided by Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Mars, and PepsiCo—the very companies that make the foods you need to eat LESS of in order to stay healthy and fight obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and countless other chronic diseases!
Nutrition Monopoly Bound to Result in Seriously Flawed Advice
Allowing industry representatives to provide continuing education is problematic on many levels. The food industry is not in the education business—it’s in the sell-more-food business. And attaching the name “council” or “academy” does not automatically mean your information is evidence-based. The processed food industry cherry-picks research and spins it to get favorable outcomes—meaning, better sales. More often than not, this has nothing to do with real science.
It’s no surprise that the AND claims sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and fluoride are safe for children. The organization receives about $1 million a year from the pharmaceutical industry and takes no issue with pharmaceutical companies marketing their drugs at AND events.6
Essentially, most RDs are getting the same corporate sponsored education as physicians, much of it riddled with bias, and a good deal of it is just industry propaganda cleverly cloaked as science.7 A great example of this is the perverted scientific misinformation propagated by the media through agencies like the Science Media Center, which exist for the sole purpose of promoting the industry agenda.
That said, there are some RDs who have banded together to fight for reform. They have formed an organization called Dietitians for Professional Integrity, aimed at pushing for more transparency and independence from industry.8 When you examine the evidence, it’s very clear: the real mission of the AND is to support the processed food and pharmaceutical industries, rather than improve public health. Unfortunately, many people will adopt their nutritional advice, and their health will suffer as a result.
The Tides Are Turning—Michigan Steps into the Lead
Michigan is poised to become the latest state to reverse the dietetics monopoly. On November 13, 2013, the Michigan House passed a bill to repeal Michigan’s 2006 Dietetics Nutrition Licensing law, which had erected a de facto monopoly for registered dietitians. CNA coalition members in Michigan expressed a willingness to collaborate with dietitians to engineer a bill that wasn’t “RD-centric” and would give much broader practice rights.
However, as the dietitians have been unwilling to make any meaningful concession, repealing the current law is the only option at the moment to protect non-RD nutrition practitioners, retail businesses, and consumers in Michigan. “We will always remain willing to discuss alternatives” said Michigan Nutrition Association Executive Director Judy Stone, “but the current law simply cannot stand because it is clearly in the interests of no one except registered dietitians.”
The Michigan Senate has the repeal bill HB 4688 on deck, but first the Chair and members of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee must be convinced by constituents to hold a hearing on the bill, which hasn’t happened yet. If you live in Michigan or know people in Michigan, you can help ensure the passage of this bill, which is one more step in protecting your freedom of choice about your nutrition and healthcare. For information about the Michigan repeal or any other state, check out CNA, where you can also sign up to be among the first to know if something is happening in your state.
The Center for Nutrition Advocacy9 is the clearinghouse for up-to-date information on legislation that affects practice rights and access rights to meaningful nutrition information not sponsored by the junk food giants. It’s outrageous to think that only one group—especially one that promotes nutrition practices that are frequently BAD for your health—should control whom you consult for nutrition advice.
CNA will be holding a free webinar tomorrow, Jan 22 at 5pm PT/7pm CT/8pm ET to discuss licensing nationwide and its impact on anyone who uses nutrition in their work.
There is still much work to be done to educate legislators about the differences between dietitians and nutritionists, so that they don’t blindly vote for regulations that interfere with practice rights or your right to choose a practitioner. Remember, choose your practitioner carefully—just as you can receive bad advice from a registered dietitian, you can receive equally bad advice from a poorly educated non-RD nutritionist. You need to thoroughly vet ALL of your healthcare providers, and diet/nutrition is no exception.