Written by the College of Dietitians of Ontario
In Ontario, the law makes a distinction between people who provide nutrition advice, such as nutritionists, and Registered Dietitians. Dietitians are regulated by law and nutritionists are not. Public Health Nutritionists, however, are an exception - they are qualified Registered Dietitians with a masters degree and are regulated by law. So, what does it mean for you that dietitians are regulated in Ontario? Why would you want to make sure that your nutritionist is a regulated health professional?
Public protection is the only reason for regulating dietitians in Ontario. The law requires the College of Dietitians of Ontario to ensure that dietitians meet legal and professional standards for safe, ethical and quality health care.
Enforceable Professional Standards
The Regulated Health Professions Act and the Dietetics Act, set out the responsibilities, powers and procedures related to the regulations of dietitians. Minimum standard for academic and training must be achieved in order to practice as a Dietitian in the province of Ontario. These enforceable standards define the professional scope of practice, academic and training requirements, ethics, professional conduct, and continuing competence. In contrast, there are no legal mechanisms to ensure that nutritionists are knowledgeable about nutrition and that they practise safely and ethically.
The academic standards for dietitians include an accredited 4-year undergraduate degree or equivalent degree with appropriate courses in science and human nutrition, an accredited dietetic internship or equivalent supervised practical training; and, successful completion of the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination. In contrast, people do not require any training to call themselves a nutritionist.
While anyone can legally provide nutrition education and advice, what sets Registered Dietitians apart is that, under the RHPA, they are accountable to the College of Dietitians of Ontario to ensure safe, competent and ethical practice. Each dietitian must participate in quality assurance and practice assessment programs to ensure continuing competency.
When anyone has a concern regarding a dietitian, they can easily contact the College of Dietitians of Ontario which has the responsibility and power to investigate and take action. In contrast, complaints regarding unregulated nutritionists can only be dealt with by their employer, if they are not self-employed, or through legal action in court.