Conaway, Moriarty, Mosquera & Benson Bill to Strengthen Qualifications for Dieticians & Nutritionists OK’d by Assembly Panel

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Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, M.D., Paul Moriarty, Gabriela Mosquera and Daniel Benson to license New Jersey dieticians and nutritionists in order to ensure they meet education and training standards was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“New Jersey is one of just a few states without any licensing requirements for nutritionists and dieticians,” said Conaway (D-Burlington), a practicing physician and chair of the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. “Professional nutritional advice can improve the quality of life for infants to the elderly, the chronically ill to the physically fit. By setting basic standards for all dieticians to meet, we can protect New Jersey consumers from improper nutritional counseling that can have serious, adverse and lasting effects on their health.”

The Dietician/Nutritionist Licensing Act (A-2182) establishes a seven-member State Board of Dietitians/Nutritionists in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety to oversee their licensure, including: four licensed dietitians/nutritionists; a physician; a public member; and a state executive department member. The members of the board are to serve without compensation, but are to be reimbursed for expenses and provided with office and meeting facilities.

“People are becoming more and more health conscious, and relying on nutritionists and dieticians to help them meet their health and fitness goals,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is a good thing, but they should have the reassurance that the experts they are entrusting their health to are indeed knowledgeable and will not cause them more harm than good.”

“Doctors cannot practice medicine without a license, so why should dieticians and nutritionists be any different?” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Granted the level of work is different, but both are entrusted by people to give them adequate advice on health matters. Requiring them to be licensed removes any ambiguity and ensures that they are indeed qualified to help.”

“Nutritionists and dieticians are of great assistance to people who want to live healthier lifestyles,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Creating standards for them to follow ensures that consumers who seek their services are getting appropriate nutritional guidance and are protected from improper or unhealthy practices.”

The bill requires a license applicant to be at least 18 years old and of good moral character, and to meet the following requirements:

  • provide evidence of current registration as a Registered Dietitian by the Commission on Dietetic Registration; or
  • have received a minimum of a baccalaureate degree from a United States regionally accredited college or university with a major course of study in a relevant field and have successfully completed minimum course requirements determined by the board; or in the case of an applicant who has obtained his education outside of the United States, have an academic degree validated by the board as being the equivalent thereof; and have successfully completed a planned clinical program in an approved practice of dietetics/nutrition or not less than 1,200 hours under the supervision of a licensed, registered or certified dietician/nutritionist, or of a registered dietician, as approved by the board; and have passed an examination given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration to practice dietetics/nutrition; or
  • have received a master’s or doctoral degree in a relevant field of study from a United States regionally accredited college or university and have successfully completed minimum course requirements determined by the board; or in the case of an applicant who has obtained an education outside the United States, have an academic degree validated by the board as being the equivalent thereof, and have a documented supervised experience in the United States in the practice of dietetics/nutrition of no less than 1,200 hours under the supervision of a licensed, registered or certified dietician/nutritionist, as approved by the board, of a registered dietician or a licensed physician; and have passed the Commission on Dietetic Registration examination.

No person may practice dietetics/nutrition in this state unless that person holds a valid license, but exemptions are allowed for certain educational purposes; federal government employees, persons serving in the Armed Forces, and employees of any state institution or facility who are practicing dietetics/nutrition within the scope of their official duties; and certain persons who do not hold themselves out to be dietitians/nutritionists while furnishing general nutritional information.

A person practicing or residing in the state on the effective date of the bill may qualify as a licensed dietitian/nutritionist one year after the bill takes effect, if (1) that person has a baccalaureate or higher academic degree from a United States regionally accredited college or university with a minimum of 30 credit hours or a major concentration of study in a relevant field approved by the board; and (2) has been employed at least half-time as a dietitian/ nutritionist for three of the last five years.

The bill also provides for the licensure of nutritionists or dietitians who have been licensed, registered, or certified in another state with standards substantially equivalent to those here in New Jersey.

The bill was released by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.