…and why you don’t need to worry about it! At the time of writing this article, there is no such thing as a Chartered Nutritionist in the UK. However, the Association for Nutrition (AfN), has petitioned for a Royal Charter.
What does it mean to be a Chartered Nutritionist?
I imagine this is the question on most peoples’ mind. Essentially, a Royal Charter, allows an organisation to to “define its objectives, constitution and [gives it] powers to govern its own affairs.”
The most common question I’ve heard arising in many professionals’ is “Do I need to be a Chartered Nutritionist to work in the industry?” and the very simply answer is, no. It’s important to understand that this is very different from a license to practice e.g. a Medical License.
Consider the fact that some Accountants choose to be chartered, and others don’t. Or that only 17% of practising barristers choose to be members of the Criminal Bar Association – it does not change their ability to practice at all.
Despite it being a relatively meaningless title, it sadden’s me that the Association for Nutrition (AfN) wants to move from it’s current usage of the protected title of ‘Registered Nutritionists’ to the new term of ‘Chartered Nutritionists’. The activities (or non-activities) of the AfN have long concerned me and others and led to me revoking my membership with them as a Registered Nutritionist. Therefore, when I saw they had applied for this Charter it felt like the right thing to do to challenge it even if it cost me several thousands of pound in legal fees.
What is the difference between a Registered Nutritionist and a Chartered Nutritionist?
Frankly, there is almost no difference whatsoever. However, I am concerned the AfN and or it’s members are going to try to use this status (in the likely event it is granted) to mislead the public and other professionals. I’m also concerned that once given this Charter there is no going back and they have a long history of incompetence in their approach to regulation.
This is the summary we submitted to government Privy Council Office:
“the AfN’s case for a Royal Charter seems predicated solely on the fact that Registered Nutritionists should be called Chartered Nutritionists. However, any issue in public confidence in the profession must be seen as a failure on the part of AfN to fulfil its current remit and a change in titles is not going to remedy that. This is particularly the case as the AfN simply does not have the expertise or authority to regulate all specialist branches of the profession and attempts to do so along current lines would be inherently damaging.”
Below, I am going to try to clearly and simply lay out my key concerns as to why the Association for Nutrition should not take on this huge task if their petition goes through. In part I am doing this to stop the public and other nutritionists being misled so please do feel free to direct people here, share screenshots of this in private Facebook groups where individuals will try to overegg what this will mean.
Finally, please do not think for a second I am the person who could regulate this industry, I’m not saying any organisation would be fit for this job right now. I fully support the idea that the industry needs regulating but that at present the wrong regulator is worse than no regulator.
I will also add that I am not against the AfN or it’s members. Myself and many other Registered Nutritionist, Registered Dietitians and other nutrition professionals just want them to do better; better regardless of a Royal Charter.
Why a charter for Nutritionists should not exist (yet)
I raised concerns that the AfN’s own ‘sanction list’ published in September 2018 stated that no registrant currently had any sanctions applied to their registration & no sanction has been applied by the AfN to any registrant in over a year. Indeed, there seemed to be no publicly available evidence of any investigation carried out by the AfN at any point or of it ever having issued any warning to a registrant where a sanction on the Register was not deemed appropriate.
[Since raising these concerns with the government… this list has seemingly disappeared… I feel a bit like an investigative journalist writing that.]
I personally know first-hand that there have been occasions whereby a nutritionist registered with the AfN has been officially complained about by other registered nutritionists and dietitians because they were giving dangerous advice and the AfN barely paid it lip service.
If you click the thumbnail, I am choosing to publish Section 4 “The AfN’s approach to regulation” in its entirety because I think it encapsulates just how ill fitted the AfN are as a regulator of the industry.
The goal of challenging the AfN’s application was never to stop the Charter going ahead but to limit its coverage.
This was my closing statement: