A Fort Walton Beach health coach claims the Florida Department of Health is violating her First Amendment rights by requiring her to obtain a license to provide diet advice to paying customers. Tony Giberson/[email protected]
An area health coach has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Florida Department of Health is violating her First Amendment rights by requiring her to obtain a license to provide dietary advice to paying customers.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Fort Walton Beach resident Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, names Florida Surgeon General Celeste Philip, in her official capacity, as the defendant. The Institute for Justice — a libertarian, civil liberties, public interest law firm representing Kokesch Del Castillo in the litigation — announced the lawsuit in a press conference Tuesday morning at the Winston E. Arnow Federal Building in Pensacola.
In a press release, the Institute for Justice wrote, "Individualized advice on what people should eat to stay healthy is surely as old as language, and such speech does not lose its constitutional protection merely because it is compensated."
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According to the complaint, Kokesch Del Castillo became a privately certified health coach through an online school called the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She started a business called "Constitution Nutrition" and would talk with clients about their diet and fitness objectives to help them set realistic and attainable goals.
Kokesch Del Castillo offered a $1,170, six-month program, which included coaching sessions, email support, recipes, a monthly newsletter and handouts on nutrition, fitness and overall wellness. She also offered a shorter, less expensive program focused around the Whole30 diet.
In March, a Department of Health investigator posing as a prospective customer contacted Kokesch Del Castillo asking for information about her services, according to the complaint. When she responded, the DOH issued her a cease and desist letter and fined her $754.
“(Kokesch Del Castillo) shouldn't need the government's permission to give advice to other adults on what to buy at the grocery store.”Institute for Justice
The Institute for Justice argues that dietary advice is widely available though books, television and the internet, and those formats do not require any type of license.
To become licensed as a dietitian/nutritionist in Florida, a person must have
earned a bachelor's or post-baccalaureate degree with a major course of study in
human nutrition, food and nutrition, dietetics or food management; completed 900
hours of supervised practice; passed a licensure examination that costs $200; and
paid fees of $165, according to the complaint.
The complaint said Florida's requirements are prohibitive for Kokesch Del Castillo, whose husband's military service required them to move to Florida in 2015 and may require them to move again in as few as two years.
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Further, Kokesch Del Castillo "shouldn't need the government's permission to give advice to other adults on what to buy at the grocery store," the Institute wrote in a press release.
According to the Department of Health's website, the licensing requirements are in place "to ensure that every dietitian, nutritionist or nutrition counselor practicing in this state meets minimum requirements for safe practice."
The Department of Health has not yet filed a response to the complaint.
Kokesch Del Castillo is seeking a judgment declaring the state regulations unconstitutional to the extent they prohibit people from giving individualized advice about diet and nutrition. She is also seeking attorneys' fees and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.Read or Share this story: http://www.pnj.com/story/news/2017/10/03/health-coach-claims-florida-licensing-laws-violate-first-amendment/728030001/
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