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Blogger Could Be Thrown in Jail for...Writing About His Diet?


“I am not a doctor, dietitian, nor nutritionist … in fact I have no medical training of any kind.”

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. Reason Magazine brings us the bizarre and senseless story of Steve Cooksey, a former diabetic who put himself on the popular "Paleo" diet and decided to tell the world about his experiences only to have the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition (yes, that exists) come down on him:

This past January the state diatetics and nutrition board decided Cooksey’s blog — Diabetes-Warrior.net — violated state law. The nutritional advice Cooksey provides on the site amounts to “practicing nutrition,” the board’s director says, and in North Carolina that’s something you need a license to do.

Unless Cooksey completely rewrites his 3-year-old blog, he could be sued by the licensing board. If he loses the lawsuit and refuses to take down the blog, he could face up to 120 days in jail.

The board’s director says Cooksey has a First Amendment right to blog about his diet, but he can’t encourage others to adopt it unless the state has certified him as a dietitian or nutritionist.

Just for clarification, these are some examples of the supposed "expert nutritional advice" Cooksey is offering (directly from his website):

So essentially, Cooksey was your typical opinionated blogger, who decided to let his enthusiasm for a particular dietary approach motivated him to dig up information his readers (presumably other diabetics like him) might find interesting, and debunk false claims by self-interested parties (like his post above about the American Diabetics' Association).

He probably could have gone on doing this, if he hadn't been so devoted to asking questions of the wrong powerful people. From the Carolina Journal:

Jan. 12, Cooksey attended a nutrition seminar at a church in Charlotte. The speaker was the director of diabetes services for a local hospital.

“She was giving all the wrong information, just like everyone always does — carbs are OK to eat, we must eat carbs to live, promoting low-fat, etc.,” Cooksey said. “So I spoke up.”

After the meeting he handed out a couple of business cards pointing people to his website.

Three days later, he got a call from the director of the nutrition board.

“Basically, she told me I could not give out nutritional advice without a license,” Cooksey said.

He said she also told him that his website was being investigated and gave him some suggestions about how to bring it into compliance.

If he does not go along, the board could file an injunction and “essentially shut the website down,” Cooksey said.

For those of you wondering how exactly Cooksey was "giving out nutritional advice," it's a distinction only an embittered bureaucrat could come up with. Fortunately, Mr. Cooksey has uploaded the full complaint on behalf of the board to his website, which includes some remarkably official looking Sharpie scrawls in the margins detailing their complaints. Some of the more absurd examples follow.

In response to a passage where Cooksey links to his meal plan:

And in response to Cooksey's "Testimonials" page:

Now, in the interests of fairness, it should be noted that Cooksey's site does include various suggested diet plans lifted directly from the Paleo diet, which he encourages users to try. However, this fact shows precisely why the distinction is so arbitrary: so long as you just say a particular diet is wonderful, or worked for you, you're fine, but if you actually tell people to use it, you're supplying nutritional advice. Never mind that the implication of any positive review of a product is that someone should use it.

And as if that weren't enough, it seems Cooksey anticipated this objection and made sure to put a disclaimer at the bottom of every page of his website that says the following:

“I am not a doctor, dietitian, nor nutritionist … in fact I have no medical training of any kind.”

But says the bureaucrat responsible, that doesn't matter because he's still trying to get people to trust him. One wonders when they will press charges against Amazon diet reviewers.

Nor is the diet in question - the "Paleo" diet - somehow revolutionary. In fact, it is a popular one with many people, nor is Cooksey the first to speak highly of it. He just happened to be the one who did it most comprehensively in North Carolina. And getting anyone to trust you without the Government's say so down there is apparently a crime.

H/T: Boing Boing

Carousel image courtesy Shutterstock.com




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