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Overview: Regulation of Food, Nutrition and Health

State governments play a vital role in creating and implementing policies that serve and protect the public. In the areas of food, nutrition and health, states may:

  • inspect or certify some food establishments and food products
  • administer programs that provide food assistance and nutrition education to individuals and families
  • establish educational standards and wellness policies for schools
  • administer public health programs
  • regulate nursing homes
  • oversee insurance programs
  • ensure many residents have coverage for important health care needs.

States also license healthcare providers such as physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and dietetics and nutrition professionals to ensure that individuals providing health and personal services have met high objective education, experience and examination requirements.

To protect the public, the majority of states have enacted laws that regulate the practice of dietetics. State licensure and state certification are entirely separate and distinct from the registration or credentialing RDNs and NDTRs obtain from the Commission on Dietetic Registration or the "certification" provided by private "certifying bodies." State regulation of dietetics and nutrition comes in one of three names, although there is some substantive overlap in what is regulated between each form.

State Regulation of Food, Nutrition and Health

  • Licensure: A state agency issues a license to individuals who meet specified qualifications to practice a particular profession. Licensing statutes for dietetics and nutrition always include a title protection provision, which is designed to prevent unlicensed individuals from holding themselves out to the public as dietitians, nutritionists, or using other titles as specified in the statute. ("Hold oneself out" means to knowingly or recklessly take or use a title, name, symbol, word or description that indicates or could be reasonably understood to indicate the person is a dietitian or nutritionist, or the person is authorized or qualified to practice dietetics or nutrition.) Most states that regulate the practice of dietetics and nutrition also include a practice exclusivity clause, which limits the ability of unlicensed individuals to provide services within the defined scope of practice for the regulated profession.
  • State Certification: A state agency certifies that individuals with specified credentials are qualified to practice a particular profession and ensures that those certified individuals are held to established standards of practice. Certification statutes include title protection provisions, but not practice exclusivity provisions — meaning that although only individuals certified by the state may hold themselves out as dietitians, nutritionists or use other titles as specified in the statute, the practice of uncertified individuals is not regulated by the certifying agency.
  • Title Protection: This least protective form of state regulation does not regulate practice of the profession but provides that only individuals with specified qualifications or credentials (such as the RDN credential) may hold themselves out as dietitians, nutritionists, or use other titles as specified in the title protection statute. There are no standards of practice or ethics established or regulated by the state. States that provide for title protection only: California, Colorado, Virginia.

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