A little over a week ago, on April 27th 2012, Steve Cooksey of the Diabetes Warrior blog, released information on his blog telling the world that he was under investigati
on by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutritionists, for providing unlicensed dietary advice from his website.
You can read the announcement post here, in his article “I Received a Letter from the NC Board of Nutrition and Dietitians“.
According to Steve’s article, he made some immediate changes to his site, in an attempt to get the NCBDN off his back:
“The board made it clear that talking about diet without a license is a crime and they could take me to court.In response to this investigation, I did three things:
1) stopped doing my published advice column.
2) took down my diabetes support package links.
3) and made my disclaimer more prominent. Additionally, I added a disclaimer at the bottom of every page.
Because I complied with their order to stop speaking and to change what I say and what I publish, the board concluded that I am in substantial compliance and close the investigation.”
I guess the question could be asked, “Why did Steve immediately take these actions to change the site…..why didn’t he fight them?”. This is actually a good question. I think that when something like this happens to a person who is not an expert in the appropriate laws, the first thing that happens is that they get really, really scared. Put yourself in that position and think for a moment what that must be like.
All of us Nutritional folks are basically a fringe group. We are passionate about telling people how the government is out to get us, and the truth about health, disease, and longevity the complete opposite to what our money grabbing government is trying to tell us. So we write our blogs, and some of us get certified and offer our services on our websites, because we really want to help people, and we believe that we know the best way to do it. We consistently see statements like “I beat my chronic disease eating this way, you can too”, and other statements that get people fired-up and wanting to try what worked so well for us. Suddenly, one day the phone rings, and it’s that friendly government that we all trust so much, on the other end of the phone, threatening to send us to jail.
No-one likes the idea of being taken to court….or worse yet, going to jail…..and the idea of a government agency going after me, would probably compound the whole thing exponentially. What would you do? Would you scoff, and say “i’m not changing a thing! let them try, and get me!” or would you maybe go ahead and make a few changes to hopefully get them off your back, and avoid a fight?
I think I’d proactively make the changes, and so did Steve, which actually may not have been completely necessary in his case, as you’ll see.
It looks like Steve Cooksey is off the hook!
It’s hard to tell when it was posted, because it is not dated, but at some point over the last few days, the NCBDN posted a letter on their website entitled “Setting The Record Straight“, which was aimed squarely at
Steve Cooksey, and the people complaining about the NCBDN’s involvement in the case. I’d like to thank Joanne Elliot of Bellatrix Nutrition for providing me with that link.
Their post is entertaining in a way, because obviously they caught enough flack from the press, and who knows who else, to where they found it necessary to dedicate a page on their website to their public defense of their actions.
The other interesting thing is that there is a lot said within that letter, that makes me think that the NCBDN never had any intentions of actually charging Steve with anything, or even actually forcing him to change his blog….which means that Steve’s reaction, and the changes that he made to his site were (seemingly) part of a “knee-jerk” reaction to the threats that he perceived to be present. Maybe the threat was never there. Maybe the NCBDN had no intention of silencing him, or taking away any of his rights…..
“Setting the Record Straight
Over the past week a number of inaccuracies have been presented to the public regarding a complaint that was submitted to the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition (the NCBDN) concerning Steve Cooksey, an unlicensed person.”
“It has been alleged that the NCBDN is harassing Mr. Cooksey.
As noted above, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition has a duty to investigate all complaints that it receives, regardless of whether it is an unlicensed person or licensed person. On January 13, 2012 a written complaint was submitted to the NCBDN alleging that Steve Cooksey was providing nutrition care services in North Carolina without a license. By law, the NCBDN had a duty to investigate this matter just as it would investigate any other complaint that is submitted to its office.”
Even though I don’t think there should be ANY government agency that has ANY say over who can and cannot give dietary advice, at least we can see here that the NCBDN were simply doing their job. They were received a complaint that they were obligated to investigate. Sounds fair enough to me…..it’s not like the agency themselves just decided to target Steve.
“It has been reported that the NCBDN threatened to shut down Mr. Cooksey’s website.
No legal action has ever been threatened or taken against Mr. Cooksey by the NCBDN.”
“Currently, there is no active complaint or action against Mr. Cooksey on file with the NCBDN.”
Again, they state that legal action was never threatened……they only investigated.
It has been reported that the NCBDN is threatening to send Mr. Cooksey to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle.
The NCBDN has no authority to criminalize any actions a person takes. By law, if a person has violated Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes, the NCBDN may report such an action to a local prosecutor, however, it would be the prosecutor’s decision whether or not to seek a misdemeanor charge.
It has been alleged that the NCBDN is attacking Mr. Cooksey’s right to free speech and has ordered him to stop speaking, change what he says and change what he publishes.
Of his own volition, upon being informed of the complaint against him, Mr. Cooksey made changes to his site, including, making his disclaimer that he is not a licensed dietitian/nutritionist more prominent and taking down his diabetes support packages. Later, Mr. Cooksey was sent a document detailing some of the Board’s concerns regarding his past interactions with some of his followers, however, this document was sent attached to an email that stated, “[g]iven our discussion, I believe our comments should make sense, however, should you disagree, I am happy to discuss.” Mr. Cooksey never contacted the NCBDN to discuss these comments. The NCBDN never ordered Mr. Cooksey to make any changes to his viagra tablets website.
The above text is more proof that Steve’s knee-jerk reaction was a severe one. One that actually wasn’t warranted by the gravity of the situation…..but how was Steve to know? I still think that how he handled it was natural for a lay-person. Maybe if Steve had involved a lawyer, things would have been very different, but most of us little people can’t afford to go throwing money at expensive lawyers as soon as something like this crops up. The easiest thing for him to do was to role over and do their bidding.
This last paragraph however, begs a scary question…..
It has been questioned why the NCBDN decided to close the complaint against Mr. Cooksey.
Initially, it did appear that the diabetes support services Mr. Cooksey was providing at the time the complaint was submitted, included nutrition care services and thereby, were in violation of the law. The NCBDN did indeed have some concerns regarding Mr. Cooksey’s original website and services as detailed in the document that was provided to him. Given Mr. Cooksey indicated verbally and in writing his desire to be in compliance, combined with his voluntary actions that followed, the NCBDN concluded that Mr. Cooksey was in substantial compliance.
What IF Steve hadn’t removed the portion of his site where people could pay for his services? They come across as not meaning any harm in their letter, but maybe that’s just because Steve complied to their wishes before they even instructed him to. What if he had refused to make any changes, and stood his ground? I think we’d be looking at a very different story.
It seems to me, from reading the letter, that the only portion of the website that would have actually secured criminal charges for Steve, would have been the “paid services” portion…..which seems justified, since the state of North Carolina requires people who give out dietary advice in exchange FOR MONEY, to have a proper license. However, I don’t believe that the NCBDN were ever trying to actually silence him, or stop him from telling his story for free….or even encouraging others to try the same method…..as long as he doesn’t receive payment for it…..what do YOU think?
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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
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