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A federal court says requiring a license to give dietary advice doesn't violate free speech rights

a beautiful salad on a wooden table
Anna Pelzer

A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of a Florida law that restricts unlicensed people from giving dietary advice, rejecting arguments that it violates First Amendment rights.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the challenge filed by Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, who was cited by the Florida Department of Health in 2017 for getting paid to provide dietary
advice without being a state-licensed dietitian or nutritionist.

Del Castillo ran what the ruling described as a “health-coaching business,” which included offering dietary advice to clients. After receiving a complaint from a licensed dietitian and investigating, the Department of Health alleged Del Castillo violated a law known as the Dietetics and Nutrition Practice Act.

Del Castillo filed a legal challenge, contending the law violates her speech rights. A federal district judge sided with the department, and the panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court upheld that decision. The 26-page opinion, written by Judge Robert Luck and joined by Judges Elizabeth Branch and Ed Carnes, said the law’s “licensing scheme for dieticians and nutritionists regulated professional conduct and only incidentally burdened Del Castillo’s speech. Because the burden on her speech rights was only incidental, the act’s licensing scheme did not violate her First Amendment free speech rights.”