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Update on Nutrition-Related Free Speech Issues in New Jersey

ByCrossFitJanuary 14, 2020
Found in:Battles

In the 2002 article “What Is Fitness?” Greg Glassman identifies that CrossFit’s theoretical hierarchy of development “starts with nutrition.” CrossFit has always held that nutrition is the foundation of health and fitness, a fact manifest in the CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course’s nutrition lecture. And affiliates that offer their members services related to nutrition, such as food logs and meal plans, set their members firmly on the path toward fitness along the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum.

The freedom to discuss lifesaving information should be a basic right for professional trainers. But nutritional licensure laws in many states criminalize the provision of lifesaving nutrition information if the provider does not hold a license to practice as a dietitian. Until recently, New Jersey was one of the few states that did not regulate this practice.

On Jan. 13, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 1582, the “Dietetics and Nutrition Licensing Act,” ushering in a regulatory regime that could imperil the right of CrossFit trainers to share essential information on nutrition and health. It establishes a regulatory board, the majority of which will likely comprise members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), a professional organization that represents dietitians and lobbies in favor of laws restricting what people can say about food and nutrition. AND is also known for its cozy relationship with Big Sugar and Big Soda, which some AND members have taken issue with due to the glaring impropriety and obvious conflicts of interest these relationships create.

CrossFit affiliates should be aware of Assembly Bill 1582’s potential threat to their free speech on nutrition. Since the bill’s introduction in 2018, CrossFit, Inc. has worked with New Jersey affiliates to limit the scope of its restrictions through tenacious advocacy with the state legislature. Prior versions of the bill would have prevented nearly everyone except dietitians from speaking about proper nutrition, and the current version still prevents those without a dietitian’s license from practicing “medical nutrition therapy.” However, as a result of CrossFit’s action, the bill as signed into law does not prohibit affiliates and trainers from:

… furnish[ing] nutrition information, provid[ing] evaluation, guidance, information, and education as to the use of food, food materials, or dietary supplements, or from engaging in the explanation to persons as to the use of food or food products including dietary supplements.

CrossFit, Inc. will continue to monitor the outcome of this specific legislation and advocate on behalf of its affiliates in New Jersey. The creation of a regulatory board is a troubling first step toward restricting speech in favor of special interests. Such steps have resulted in deadly outcomes in states ravaged by chronic disease. The only entities that benefit from the suppression of free speech on nutrition are the corporations whose unhealthy products are easily marketed to consumers in an atmosphere where the truth is stifled and the special interest groups whose licenses allow them to corner the market on advice for the sake of financial gain, regardless of the quality of that advice. Everyone else loses.

Professional trainers who share lifesaving information should not have to look over their shoulder, fearing penalties, restrictions, and other anti-competitive actions from entrenched interests. CrossFit, Inc. has won on this front in the past. It will continue to fight to protect its affiliates’ and trainers’ rights to speak freely about the foundational elements of the CrossFit methodology and human health.

CrossFit, Inc. proactively monitors legislation introduced in states around the country. If your affiliate is facing regulatory or legislative pressure at the state level, please contact CrossFit’s lobbyist, Brett Ewer, at brett.ewer@crossfit.com.

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