Lawmakers yesterday voted to tighten the licensing process used to qualify nutritionists in light of the widespread employment of unlicensed nutritionists at weight loss and beauty centers.
"Due to changes in society's eating habits, the increase in chronic diseases and obesity and the widespread emergence of nutrition, beauty and weight loss centers, it is important that we pass amendments to the law," said Department of Health director general Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) at the Legislative Yuan yesterday.
The health department's amendments would make the certification process more stringent while increasing the fines imposed on violators.
"The main points of the amendments aim to strengthen the current licensing program and establish a system for relicensing nutritionists and promoting continued education in nutrition," Chen said.
According to the health department's amendments, nutritionists would have to provide proof of training every six years, and the department's Bureau of Food Safety would serve as the sole authority on licensing.
Lawmakers on the Legislative Yuan's Sanitation, Environment, and Social Welfare Committee yesterday cleared the health department's proposals. The amendments will be sent to the legislative floor for their second reading.
In addition, the amendments clarify the boundaries of the authorized application of a nutritionist's license, designating hospitals, schools, factories and other organizations focused on nutritional guidance or education as qualified vendors of nutritional information.
Furthermore, if the amendments are implemented, weight loss centers would have to meet the same requirements as those imposed on medical care facilities in applying for a license to establish nutrition information centers.
The amendments reflect the widespread practice of employing unlicensed nutritionists at weight loss centers to attract consumers.
"If beauty centers and weight loss programs choose to offer nutritional advice or if nutrition information centers choose to offer weight loss programs, nutritionist licensing must be obtained first," said Hang Chi-min (杭極敏), a section chief at the Bureau of Food Safety.
At the same time, the legal revisions would require that weight loss programs that choose not to include nutrition information centers must at least arrange to cooperate with an outside nutrition information center. All-nutrition related work would have to be referred to the contracted nutrition center.
Lawmakers also voted in favor of proposed hikes in fines imposed on violators, setting the fine at five times what is currently stipulated in the law. Violation of more than three counts could also result in the revoking of the right to practice for a length of time over one month but no longer than one year.
The health department also plans to recognize certain nutritionist licensing programs used abroad.