by Michael Ellsberg

In January of this year, health and nutrition blogger Steve Cooksey received a disturbing letter from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition.

The letter contained a 19-page markup of Cooksey’s own blog, highlighting in handwritten red pen an extensive series of changes the Board demanded that Cooksey make.

He had to make these changes, the Board censors told him, or he would face arrest (according to the NC dietetics licensing statute the letter cited) and up to a month and half in prison, a criminal record for blogging in America.

Specifically, the Board censors said, he had to remove or change all writing they construed as constituting “nutrition advising” or “nutrition counseling” without a license—which was a lot.

Bloggers around the nation reacted in upset and outrage at the Board’s censorship of Cooksey’s blog. “This is the sort of story you expect to come from a third world superstitious kleptopcracy – yet it happened here on American soil, in North Carolina, thanks to good old fashioned state-level bureaucracy,” writes Mytheos Holt on

“The state board declared that Cooksey couldn’t even offer free and private advice to his friends over the phone. With that kind of legal standard, who among us would not be a criminal?” writes Kelly Jane Torrance on

Here’s an important twist on this developing free speech story. Forbes was granted exclusive first-look at a new series of internal documents, freshly leaked by outraged members within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional association behind the NC State Board of Dietetics/Nutrition which censored Cooksey. (That association is also known widely among the public by its old name, the American Dietetic Association–I use the two names equivalently in this article.)

In these newly-available internal documents, which I quote and outline at length in this article, the American Dietetic Association:

  • Openly discusses creating and using state boards of dietetics/nutrition (including in NC and in every other state in the union) for the express purpose of limiting market competition for its Registered Dietitian members.
  • Openly discusses a nation-wide plan of surveilling and reporting private citizens, and particularly all competitors on the market for nutrition counseling, for “harming the public” by providing nutrition information/advice/counseling without a license—through exactly the same means by which Cooksey was reported to the NC Board. Again, for the explicit purpose of limiting marketplace competition.

Read the Full Article Here: