I’ve been contemplating the idea of sending out a weekly post with links to articles of interest. Specifically, I’ve been watching the US farm bill, some emerging issues in African agricultural microfinance and then this: Can the government throw you in jail for offering advice on the Internet about what food people should buy at the grocery store? Seriously?
Just 17 months ago, a diabetic blogger named Steve Cooksey began writing an advice column on his blog, diabetes-warrior.net. Specifically, Steve has endorsed a way of eating called the Paleo diet as one that he believes has worked well based upon his own health goals and outcomes. Steve’s column is in response to reader questions and is written from his own experience. Based upon the popularity of his blog and his writings, Steve has also started a fee-based coaching service for individuals wanting more of his time. Sounds like the classic entrepreneur?
Apparently the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition has informed Steve that he is unable to give readers advice on diet, whether free or for compensation, because in doing so he is conducting the unlicensed, and therefore criminal, practice of dietetics. The North Carolina Board went on to tell Steve that even his private emails and telephone calls with readers and friends are illegal, as is his fee-based coaching. Steve was left with a red-lined document letting him know what he can and cannot say without a government-issued license from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition.
Okay, first I do not follow a paleo diet although I know that many of you do. That’s mainly due to the fact that I eat little meat and love my pasta. Second, the law firm that Steve has turned to is called the Institute for Justice and is a libertarian public interest law firm. I also do not consider myself a libertarian however I do believe that this civil liberties law firm has stepped in to advocate for a blogger whose right to free speech is being challenged. Looking through their website, they have chapters of entrepreneurial defense, private property rights defense and yes, freedom of speech defense. Wiredmagazine said, the Institute for Justice “helps individuals subject to wacky government regulations.”
Here’s the story of their involvement with Steve:
Whether you’re a fan of Steve or not, it appears that a basic right is being challenged and since this one involves food, something that I take an interest in, I think it’s incumbent upon us to share this with other US bloggers who could easily find themselves in a similar situation. Please consider doing so.