American Dietetic Association Seeks Monopoly over Nutritional Therapy
For Immediate Release: July 17, 2009
Contact: Tami L. Wahl, 202.467.1986, American Association for Health Freedom
Since 1984, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) has been actively sponsoring state legislation that establishes registration and licensing protocols for dietitians. Their efforts have been successful in over 40 states. Now the ADA is attempting to have nutritionists and practitioners of nutritional therapy be locked into the same licensing scheme. In some states, ADA even has control over the use of terms such as “nutritionist” and “nutritional care,” to the extent that an individual—professional or not—is prohibited from using such words.
In 2006, ADA was successful in Michigan, and the Dietitian/Nutritionist Licensure Act was passed. The Act requires an individual to be licensed by the state if he or she wants to practice either dietetics or nutritional counseling. Prior to that time, Michigan did not have a licensing requirement; since the passage of the Act, the Michigan Board of Dietetics and Nutrition has been promulgating rules to implement the Act by specifying how the licensing requirements are to be fulfilled.
ADA is, in its own words, “the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.” However, there is a philosophical difference between dietetics and nutritional therapy—they are two different fields of study and practice. If dietitians are ADA’s focus, why is the organization trying to encroach on the work of nutritionists?
The American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF), a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., that advocates for the freedom to choose (and have access to) integrative medical treatments, has been vocal in Michigan, opposing ADA’s efforts.
Tami Wahl, AAHF’s Legislative Director, states: “It appears the thrust behind the inclusion of nutritionists in ADA’s licensing legislation is to eliminate competition by mandating that everyone who wants to practice nutritional therapy must register with ADA—and only ADA. We are trying to make sure consumers have access to both types of providers of nutritional information—nutritionists and dietitians. We want practitioners to freely practice their chosen profession without undue restrictions, and we want consumers to have the right to choose.”
Currently, the proposed rules in Michigan require that both dietitians and nutritionists complete ADA’s registration process. The rules do not offer another credentialing agency that specializes in nutrition—even though several other reputable credentialing agencies exist. In fact, more often than not, the credentialing agencies that specialize in nutrition have a more extensive certifying process than ADA, such as requiring an advanced degree and over 1000 hours of supervised experience that includes clinical research and education in medical nutrition therapy, as opposed to ADA’s requirement of only a bachelor’s degree and 900 hours of supervised practice. This means that a practitioner in Michigan with a master’s or a PhD in Nutrition must still complete registration through ADA—which only requires a bachelor’s degree—just to continue their practice.
Michigan is a prime example of ADA’s efforts to control the practice of nutritional therapy. The Act prohibits practitioners from simply using the word “nutritionist” unless the individual obtains a license through the Board. And according to the proposed rules, an individual can only obtain a license if he or she registers with ADA.
Wahl continues, “When ADA controls the practice of nutritional therapy and determines the terms on which individuals have access, then ADA has secured a monopoly over the practice of nutritional therapy. Legislation should not restrict the practice of nutrition to only dietitians. Considering the health of our country, limiting the pool of individuals who can provide nutritional therapy is contrary to the public’s best interest.”
One licensing procedure for two very different professions does not serve the public interest either, particularly when nutritionists who already have practices will face unnecessary limitations and could possibly lose their practice.
Florida, Ohio, Delaware, and Wisconsin are just a few of the states that have encountered troubles with licensing nutritionists and dietitians under ADA-sponsored legislation. If a state feels compelled to enact licensing requirements for nutritional therapy, the legislation should at least be focused on the unique study and practice of nutritionists. It should not pass a commingled licensing bill for both dietitians and nutritionists—one that eliminates competition, precludes highly qualified individuals from practicing their chosen profession, and unnecessarily restricts a consumer’s right to choose.
# # #
NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
About the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF):
AAHF is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization that protects Americans’ rights to access integrative medicine and dietary supplements. AAHF protects the right of the consumer to choose and the practitioner to practice by lobbying Congress and state legislatures; educating the public, press, and decision-makers on integrative medicine; initiating legal activities; and joining and forming significant coalitions.