An Atlanta-based group sent a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad, Attorney General Tom Miller and the dietetic board of Iowa urging changes to the board after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Alliance for Natural Health USA, which issued the letter June 11 to Iowa and 15 other states, said it is calling for an end of “all monopolistic policies and regulations related to nutritional advice.”
That’s because a February U.S. Supreme Court decision — N.C. State Board of Dental Examiners v FTC — ruled that “active market participants cannot be allowed to regulate their own market free from antitrust accountability.”
The Alliance of Natural Health contests that the Iowa Board of Dietetics is controlled by active members — registered dietitians — and should be converted to a majority of non-conflicted members, such as the general public, or the state should create new oversight mechanisms to comply with the law.
The board has three registered dietitians and two members of the general public.
“The court clarified that antitrust liability extends to state regulatory boards, which are being run by market participants — people who have vested interests in the very market they are tasked with regulating,” said Allison Murphy, the alliance’s legal director.
Murphy said many states are allowing trade groups, such as the Cleveland-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to dictate policy and drive out competition.
The alliance said the Freedom of Information Act requests showed that the Iowa Board of Dietetics shut down practices with no clear allegations of harm.
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“These actions were taken against practitioners who, in some cases, had advanced degrees and years of experience providing valuable nutritional guidance,” the group said.
The ruling could affect multiple licensure boards in every state, from massage therapy to physician assistants, Murphy said. In Iowa, the Bureau of Professional Licensure, which is part of the Iowa Department of Public Health, oversees 19 licensure boards regulating 39 professions.
“Some restrictions are necessary for safety,” she said, such as for physicians or lawyers. But the alliance believes there a number of professions in which licensure is used to protect market share instead.
“You can’t have foxes guarding the hen house,” Murphy said.
The Iowa Board of Dietetics oversees the state’s dietitians, including licensure and regulations. To receive a license, one must have a college degree in human nutrition or an equivalent major, complete an internship and pass the Commission of Dietetic Registration exam, according to the board of dietetics.
“Gov. Branstad and Attorney General Tom Miller have met on the issue of the ruling and its impact on Iowa,” said Jimmy Centers, the governor’s spokesman.
Centers said the governor’s office will continue to meet with Miller leading up to next session on any legislative or executive action that should be taken.
“Gov. Branstad believes the first job for any board is to protect Iowans, not to simply protect a profession,” he said.