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Exclusive Leaked Documents: American Dietetic Association is Intentionally Using State Legislatures to Block Alternative Nutrition Providers and Restrict Free Speech
By Michael Ellsberg
July 10, 2012
[Disclosure: My wife is a weight loss consultant whose work could conceivably be seen as competition to Registered Dietitians. Also, as I have written about extensively in this piece for Forbes detailing my own journey overcoming Bipolar II, I have been a longtime consumer of holistic nutrition counseling services from people who are not RDs.]
In January of this year, health and nutrition blogger Steve Cooksey received a disturbing letter from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition.
The letter contained a 19-page markup of Cooksey’s own blog, highlighting in handwritten red pen an extensive series of changes the Board demanded that Cooksey make.
He had to make these changes, the Board censors told him, or he would face arrest (according to the NC dietetics licensing statute the letter cited) and up to a month and half in prison, a criminal record for blogging in America.
Specifically, the Board censors said, he had to remove or change all writing they construed as constituting “nutrition advising” or “nutrition counseling” without a license—which was a lot.
Bloggers around the nation reacted in upset and outrage at the Board’s censorship of Cooksey’s blog. “This is the sort of story you expect to come from a third world superstitious kleptopcracy – yet it happened here on American soil, in North Carolina, thanks to good old fashioned state-level bureaucracy,” writes Mytheos Holt on TheBlaze.com.
“The state board declared that Cooksey couldn’t even offer free and private advice to his friends over the phone. With that kind of legal standard, who among us would not be a criminal?” writes Kelly Jane Torrance on WeeklyStandard.com.
Here’s an important twist on this developing free speech story. Forbes was granted exclusive first-look at a new series of internal documents, freshly leaked by outraged members within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional association behind the NC State Board of Dietetics/Nutrition which censored Cooksey. (That association is also known widely among the public by its old name, the American Dietetic Association–I use the two names equivalently in this article.)
In these newly-available internal documents, which I quote and outline at length in this article, the American Dietetic Association:
- Openly discusses creating and using state boards of dietetics/nutrition (including in NC and in every other state in the union) for the express purpose of limiting market competition for its Registered Dietitian members.
- Openly discusses a nation-wide plan of surveilling and reporting private citizens, and particularly all competitors on the market for nutrition counseling, for “harming the public” by providing nutrition information/advice/counseling without a license—through exactly the same means by which Cooksey was reported to the NC Board. Again, for the explicit purpose of limiting marketplace competition.
Three months ago, I wrote an article for Forbes entitled “Is the American Dietetic Association Attempting to Limit Market Competition in Nutrition Counseling?” Notice the question mark at the end of the title.
At that time, I had access to only one already-available internal ADA document, which rabidly attacked market competitors, and seemed to imply that the ADA should take legistlative action to restrict this market competition.
(“We must be aware that existing legal and regulatory constraints on practice are unlikely to prevent robust, broad competition in these growth areas,” writes Pepin Tuma in that document; Tuma is now Director of Regulatory Affairs at the ADA.)
Despite the obvious implications of that document, at that time I did not have any direct “smoking gun” linking the ADA’s explicit intention to limit marketplace competition (expressed in that document), with its aggressive action in the legislative sphere to create the very kinds of dietetics practice acts, and state boards of dietetics, under which Cooksey was threatened.
All that has changed now.