Anyone can be a nutritionist nowadays, right? All it takes is an imagined gluten intolerance and a knack for photogenic smoothie bowls, and you're on your way to advising people on how to cure their acne with nothing more than the right strain of quinoa.
Well, not quite. Despite what the Instagrams of the oracle-like "clean eating" bloggers and wellness gurus may suggest, qualifying to give safe nutritional advice requires a certain level of training.
It's little surprise, then, that a group of British nutrition professionals have launched a petition demanding that "nutritionist" becomes a protected job title.
Student dietitian and co-founder of Fight the Fads, a website that debunks false nutritional advice, Harriet Smith has filed a petition to the UK Government to make "nutritionist" a legally protected job title, "so that people understand where to go to for accurate, evidence-based advice" on diet. Currently, the Association for Nutrition holds a voluntary register of qualified nutritionists, but there is no legal protection for the job title. Smith and her fellow Fight the Fads founders say that this gives the "false illusion" that anyone can become a qualified nutritionist.
According to the petition: "Currently, due to lack of regulation, anyone can set up and practice as a nutritionist/nutritional therapist, meaning there is no real protection for consumers."
The Association for Nutrition has given its support for the campaign, telling industry publication Food Navigator: "This would protect the public by ensuring that those providing nutrition advice are suitably qualified, competent, and accountable."
The petition follows the recent BBC documentary Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets, which revealed how easy it can be to gain a "qualification" in nutrition (the host simply receives her certificate in the post), as well as Ruby Tandoh's VICE piece on the dangers of the wellness movement, in which she points out that "good research into health and nutrition is slow, rigorous, and far from the evangelism of things like the [gluten-free] diet."
Since going live last week, the petition has received 2,764 signatures. It will need 10,000 in total before it can elicit a Government response.