Meanwhile, there are fresh victories (and challenges) in the battle to stop AND from monopolizing nutrition advice. State Action Alert!
Picture yourself at a continuing education conference for professionals. In the morning, you grab a Hershey’s chocolate milk and head to a panel—sponsored by the Wheat Council—on how gluten intolerance is just a “fad.” After a lunch provided by McDonalds, you listen in on a discussion (hosted by the Big Food front group International Food Information Council) about how GMOs are perfectly safe and environmentally friendly.
Was this a continuing ed conference for Big Food propagandists? Nope—Registered Dieticians! This was Mother Jones reporter Kiera Butler’s actual experience at the annual conference of the California Dietetic Association.
Frankly, we’d expect nothing less from the Coca-Cola, Abbott Nutrition, Pepsi, General Mills, and Kellogg’s-funded Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). After all, corporate contributions are the AND’s largest source of income. In fact, the AND’s mission has become so skewed that its own members have formed an organization—Dieticians for Professional Integrity—to protest its hijacking by corporate interests.
Why are the AND’s doings of concern to the natural health community? Because, as we’ve previously reported, the AND uses its financial clout to bar other highly qualified professionals from the field of nutritional therapy, to the lasting detriment of consumer choice.
Turning the tide of AND’s crony capitalist practices is an ongoing effort. Here’s an update on our latest victories and challenges:
Federal Victory: Nutritionists Win Equal Recognition
In February 2013, we warned you about a sneaky insertion by AND lobbyists into draft rules for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Essentially, the added provision would have revised the requirement that hospital diets be prescribed only by the practitioners responsible for the care of the patient—a revision we, in principle, agreed with, since few physicians know anything about nutrition.
The problem was this provision would be expanded to include only Registered Dietitians (RDs)—not Certified Nutrition Specialists, many of whom have higher degrees than dietitians, e.g., Master’s degrees and PhDs, or other highly qualified nutrition professionals.
Thanks to your messages and our official comments to CMS, the final rule has been changed to recognize equally qualified nutrition professionals alongside RDs. This is a real game-changer for non-RD nutrition professionals that we couldn’t have achieved without your support—thank you!
State Concerns: Monopolistic Legislation
For years, the AND’s main state lobbying strategy has been to introduce “scope-of-practice” licensure laws that prevent qualified non-RD nutrition professionals from practicing. These laws are then enforced by state health departments and state dietetics boards dominated by pro-AND dieticians.
For example, Maryland SB 379 sought to expand the state dietetic board’s power by granting it permission to send nutrition professionals cease-and-desist letters (a right usually reserved just for the state Attorney General) and by increasing penalties for non-compliant professionals. Unfortunately, this bill passed in early April, but we won’t give up in Maryland, despite AND’s clout with the legislators there.
Here are the bills we’re currently concerned about:
- California SB 993 would allow RDs to provide independent medical nutrition therapy without the supervision of a physician or surgeon, and to receive insurance reimbursement for doing so. ANH-USA is currently working to amend the bill to allow other nutrition professionals, and specifically Certified Nutrition Specialists, to be granted the same right.
- New Jersey SB 855 and S1661/A2826 would allow only licensed RDs—and no other qualified nutrition professionals—to engage in medical nutritional therapy. Although the New Jersey bills are currently in legislative limbo, we’re monitoring them carefully and will keep you updated.
- New York AB 1388 and SB 4999, which would have a similar impact as the New Jersey bills, are of the greatest concern. Last week, SB 4999 passed out of the Higher Education Committee and was sent on for consideration by the Senate Finance Committee. It’s vital that we stop this bill before it moves another inch. If you are a resident of New York state, please take action immediately!
Over the past few years, ANH-USA and our allies have been very successful in defeating monopolistic RD licensure bills. For example, we have won in Illinois, Colorado, Hawaii, Indiana, and West Virginia. As a result, the number of licensure bills introduced on the state level has dropped dramatically. However, we must remain ever vigilant—or else you’ll lose access to nutrition professionals who won’t prescribe McDonalds for lunch.