NC legislators back-pedal on proposal to dismantle state nutrition board after registered dietitians catch wind of it
North Carolina legislators proposed a law
that would have restored Paleo Blogger Steve Cooskey's freedom of speech by allowing him to continue writing about his diet and recommending it to others, but the bill's sponsors gutted it at the last minute, with no explanation.
The bill originally would have abolished the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition, which threatened to send Cooksey to jail
for "dispensing" nutritional advice without a license.
The board was one of dozens of "wasteful" boards and commissions state legislators planned to eliminate in a bill whose purpose was to "reduce the size of government" and strengthen free enterprise. But just before it reached the Senate floor on Feb. 6, the bill's own sponsors changed their minds and decided to spare the nutrition board.
Bill sponsor Senator Bill Rabon amended the legislation so that it preserved the state's law requiring a person to have a license before sharing his opinion about what people should eat. Instead he proposed to fire the seven current board members and replace them with five new ones. It is unclear whether the new members will be more sympathetic to freedom of speech.
Ruth Ann Foster, who is working on her doctorate in holistic nutrition, pushed for the Dietetics Board to be included amongst the list of bureaucracies the bill eliminates, because her degree will be useless as long as Board members get to decide who gets to speak about nutrition and who doesn't.
That's because the NC Dietetics Board is part and parcel to a national trade group called the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is sponsored by food industry giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg's, General Mills and Nestle, who are not interested in holistic nutrition.
Foster believes the Dietetics Board caught wind of the proposal to eliminate the state's nutrition licensing law and pressured bill sponsors into dropping it.
The American Dietetics Association
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - formerly and more commonly known as the American Dietetics Association - has lobbied for mandatory licensure of nutrition-related occupations in all 50 states, and has been successful in about 35.
In North Carolina, those wanting to "practice" nutrition must take ADA-sponsored academic courses and pass an ADA exam to be licensed in the state.
In other words, no one can offer any advice about nutrition to anyone in the state - friends and family included - unless they have been educated by a national trade group that is funded by Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mars, Nestle and dozens of other highly processed food manufacturers.
In a letter asking state senators to do away with the Dietetics Board and the licensing law that keeps her silent and unemployed, Foster explained that the law enabled dieticians sponsored by junk food companies to monopolize not only the occupation of nutrition, but the information North Carolinians are allowed to hear about nutrition.
A graduate student working on her doctorate in holistic nutrition, she said she was "shocked" to learn that she would not be able to practice her trade in the state or in any way identify herself as a nutritionist.
Citizens in states where the ADA has gotten licensing laws passed are deprived of access to alternative theories about diet, Foster said.
She added that companies who donate enough money to the ADA - including Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft and Nestle - are entitled to provide continuing education courses to the organization's members.
As members of the ADA, registered dieticians all parrot the same message, "carbs are good, grains are good, sugar is fine, eat less fat" said former diabetic Steve Cooksey, who learned to control his insulin levels with exactly the opposite diet.
Diabetes patients are entitled to a second opinion, Cooksey said, and they're not going to get it from an ADA-registered dietitian.
Free Speech Case
Cooksey's battle with the NC Dietetics Board is now the subject of a major free speech case
, which the non-profit libertarian law firm Institute for Justice plans to appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Cooksey's lawyer Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney at the Institute, said if the bill had passed in its original form it would have eliminated the need for the lawsuit, as the defendant - the NC Board of Dietetics - would have ceased to exist.
"The Legislature should move forward with the elimination of the dietitian-licensing scheme, but, barring that, getting rid of the current board members, who were involved in the suppression of Steve Cooksey's dietary advice, is still a good start," Rowes said.
Unless the original version of the bill is restored and passed, Institute for Justice plans to proceed with Cooksey's First Amendment case, which is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, he said.
Neither Senator Bill Rabon nor Senator Tom Apodaca - both primary sponsors of the bill - would return calls or emails as to why they flip-flopped on their own proposal.
Foster said lawmakers were initially "keen on" her proposal to do away with the Dietetics Board when she met with them in December, as it fit into their larger mission of eliminating unnecessary government agencies and promoting free trade. She obtained an email leaked from a registered dietician sympathetic to her cause that she believes explains their change of heart.
When the Dietetics Board learned they had been included on the list of boards to be terminated they sent out an email labeled "urgent," warning all licensed dietitians in the state to contact their legislators. Senator Apodaca even mentioned getting a call from his dietitian that morning as he expressed his support for the amendment to the bill on the Senate floor.
Foster said there is still time for the bill to be amended back to its original intent in the state House. She said natural health advocates will be flooding House members with calls and emails urging them to do so.
The State of Michigan is also considering doing away with its nutrition board.