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Victory Is At Hand! Bill Passes, Awaits Illinois Governor’s Signature!

By James J. Gormley

The Illinois’ nutrition community bill (SB 2936) we told you about over the last week has passed the Illinois House of Representatives by a vote of 102 to 7, with two abstentions. Translation: The bill has passed and now awaits Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s signature!

In an exception to the normal legislative procedures, a second and a third bill reading fortunately occurred on one day, today, after the bill was passed unanimously by the Illinois Senate on November 29th and by the House Licensing Committee earlier this week.

To recap, current Illinois law allows a near-monopoly for dietitians, but, with Governor Quinn’s signature, SB 2936 will open up access to other qualified health professionals. For many years now the American Dietetic Association (now re-named the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or AND) has been working hard to monopolize all communications and information provided to consumers about nutrition and dietary supplements.

The dieticians’ lobby seeks to not just prevent laypeople from providing dietary advice, but non-RD health professionals as well! The heart of the problem is this: Unlike many health professions, “nutrition advice” is not a single profession, but is a tool-set legitimately used by many professionals. Those professionals include nutritionists, medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, health coaches, and many more, some of whom are much more qualified to provide such information!

The bill will:

  • Change current law from an RD-only law, to one that permits a wider variety of nutrition education and allows other nutrition exams and credentials (the CNS, CCN, and DACBN).
  • Strengthen exemptions protecting acupuncturists, health food stores and other businesses and employees who respond to consumer questions regarding nutrition and dietary supplement information.

According to the American Nutrition Association (ANA), an organization which represents the majority of the nutrition community: “This bill doesn’t correct every provision of current law we sought to change. However, the significance of rolling back a monopolistic RD practice law to one which includes other nutritionists and exemptions, is immense.”

Governor Quinn will want to consider what is at stake here — will we have only the dietetics version of nutrition advice in Illinois or will The Land of Lincoln have broader access to nutrition advice? The dieticians’ lobby is bringing all the money and forces they can to prevent this good bill from being signed!

We have an excellent chance of winning, but only if Governor Quinn is aware of how important this bill is to Illinois consumers and, by extension, for health freedom.

Those Illinois residents who wish to encourage Governor Quinn to sign SB 2936 can click here.

A special thanks goes out to the following sponsoring Senators: Iris Martinez (the bill’s main sponsor), Michael Noland, Ron Sandack, Jacqueline Collins, Emil Jones III, Mattie Hunter and Donna Trotter. Thanks are also due to the sponsoring Representatives: Angelo Saviano, Michael Zalewski, Michael McAuliffe and Brandon Phelps.

Although it didn’t matter when all was said and done, the following Illinois House members inexplicably voted against this historic bill: Pihos, Chapa LaVia, Northland, Franks, Farnham, Durkin and Sente. Two Representatives took no position (but were present): Connelly and Mussman.

Ending a dietetics monopoly and ensuring protection for a diverse range of nutrition care providers for Americans is underway. This will be a milestone step for Illinois if their Governor signs it.

Dieticians and Efforts to Monopolize Nutrition

By James J. Gormley

There are many healthcare professionals who provide dietary advice.  One subset is “Registered Dietitians” or RDs, a private credential offered by the private trade association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), formerly known as the American Dietetic Association, or ADA.

RDs typically provide government-sanctioned dietary advice, such as the USDA dietary guidelines.  There is a large other set of professionals – fully 2/3 of the nutrition community!– more commonly referred to as “nutritionists” who typically take a very different approach to dietary advice (not constrained by government-imposed guidelines), and there are many other professionals who use nutrition as part of their practice.

Despite an urgent need for more nutrition therapy and advice (not less), nutritionists claim that the dietician lobby has engaged in a campaign to monopolize nutrition advice through regulatory capture, specifically state nutrition licensing laws and federal regulations.

Regulatory capture of health professions is nothing new.  But this attempt is said by nutritionists to be particularly egregious, because the ‘scope’ of the so-called ‘dietetics and nutrition’ profession is not a set of competencies unique to a particular health care provider (like an MD or a nurse).

It does not involve substances that the law otherwise forbids the public to use (such as a medical license permitting the prescription of pharmaceuticals).  This is the purveying of advice with regard to a substance freely available to all and consumed every day: food.

The dietician lobby seeks to not just prevent laypeople from providing dietary advice, but non-RD health professionals as well!  The crux of the problem is this:

Unlike many health professions, “nutrition advice” is not a single profession, but is a tool-set legitimately used by many professionals (and the public).  Those professionals include dietitians, nutritionists, medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, health coaches, and many more.  Thus, it is much more difficult to reduce nutrition to a uniform regulatory scheme than it is for a discrete profession, such as nursing, for instance.  It is like trying to license “exercise advice” – which is a tool used by many professions, not the domain of a single profession.

The dietician licensing bills make it a crime for those who give nutrition advice without a license. These laws prevent the vast majority of non-RDs from providing nutrition advice and artificially constrain the number of nutrition advisers and practitioners.  In over half of states in the U.S. these one-sided licensure laws have passed, and entire segments of nutrition practitioners – such as naturopaths, nutritionists, herbalists and many others – are often barred from providing advice.

The sole beneficiaries of the dieticians’ drive for monopoly are its Registered Dietitians.  And they are by no means the most highly qualified. The RD credential requires a bachelor’s degree, while several other nutrition credentials require a Masters or Doctoral level.  What the dietician lobby does have is far greater financial resources.

According to the American Nutrition Association (ANA), the dietician lobby is acting as legislator, executive, judge, and jury:

1. It has attempted to insinuate itself into federal regulations, so that only members of its professional trade group are permitted to be reimbursed for nutrition counseling.

2. It has been fairly successful at getting state laws passed, substantially similar to North Carolina’s, that criminalize the provision of nutrition advice.  This at a time when their own data show a shortage of nutrition professionals relative to the demand

3. Those dietician-friendly state laws enshrine Registered Dietitians as the dominant force on each of these state licensing boards.

4. The state licensing boards play a large role in determining who can and cannot obtain a license, first by drafting ‘rules’ that spell out the details of licensure requirements (which mimic the dietician group’s requirements), and second by being the gatekeeper for applicants for licensure.

5. The association then encourages its members to file complaints with the state licensing boards

Then the Registered Dietitians in the state, encouraged explicitly by the dietician lobby to police the field, report unlicensed practitioners to the state’s licensing board, which are referred for prosecution.

6. Hearings and settlements during the course of such prosecutions are conducted by or in close contact with the particular licensing board.

Progress in Illinois

While Current Illinois law has been a near-monopoly for dietitians, we’re pleased to announce that the American Nutrition Association’s bill to open up access to nutrition practitioners is up for a vote, likely by tomorrow morning, November 29th. If you are in Illinois or have a family member, friend or colleague in the state, we urge you to pass along the this link asap!

The ANA has approval of the bill sponsor, Sen. Iris Martinez, many other legislators, and the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, on an amended bill that would:

–Change current law from an RD-only law, to one that permits a wider variety of nutrition education and allows other nutrition exams and credentials (the CNS, CCN, and DACBN).

–Strengthen exemptions protecting acupuncturists, health food stores and other businesses and employees who respond to consumer questions regarding nutrition and dietary supplement information.

According to the ANA, “This bill doesn’t correct every provision of current law we sought to change. However, the significance of rolling back a monopolistic RD practice law to one which includes other nutritionists and exemptions, is immense.”

Ending a dietetics monopoly and ensuring protection for a diverse range of nutrition care providers for Americans is underway. This is a huge step in the process, and we at Citizens for Health look forward to working with all of you to roll back these nutrition monopolies in other states.