[Approved on May 31, 1972]
To regulate the practice of the nutritionist and dietitian professions in Puerto Rico; to create the Board of Examiners of Nutritionists and Dietitians; to establish the College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico; to provide for its rights and responsibilities, and to establish penalties.
Statement of Motives
With the population increase and the growing complexity of our social and economic structures, the science of nutrition and dietetics has attained a greater importance within the health field in Puerto Rico, both as part of the preventive phase of diseases and in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients.
The application of scientific knowledge on nutrition helps to develop to the maximum an individual's physical and mental strength, and as a consequence, increases the general population's level of activity. This will have a bearing in the population's work habits, productivity and general progress.
Due to the advancements in food handling and servicing, the progress of dietetic treatment as an essential part in the medical treatment of diseases, and the growing demand for nutrition and dietetic services, the need has surfaced in Puerto Rico for the use of duly trained specialists in nutrition and dietetics, to implement the new projects aimed at improving the nutritional aspects of the diet of Puerto Ricans, and to protect their health. To that effect, it is necessary to regulate the professions of nutritionist and dietitian, establish the requirements to be met by those who practice and wish to practice such professions, and to establish the adequate organisms to oversee the faithful compliance with the objectives pursued by the regulation of the practice of these two professions.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of Puerto Rico:
Section 1. –Definitions:
Unless another meaning is specified by the context of this Act, the below listed terms shall have the following meanings:
(a) College – shall mean the College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico.
(b) Board – shall mean the Board of Examiners of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico.
(c) Nutritionist – shall mean every professional qualified to interpret and apply the scientific knowledge on nutrition to the planning, organization, development and management of programs for the promotion of health and the prevention of debilitating diseases, as well as the research, study and the solution of nutritional problems in individuals or groups.
(d) Dietitian – shall mean every professional qualified to interpret and apply the scientific knowledge of nutrition to the selection and preparation of food, planning of menus and diets, supervision of personnel in charge of the preparation of such diets; and that is able to organize and manage food services in institutions such as hospitals, cafeterias, hotels, school lunch rooms, etc., and to select the required equipment. Her professional background shall enable him to provide orientation and counseling pertaining dietetic issues to professional groups and to the community in general.
Section 2. - Board of Examiners of Dietitians and Nutritionists
(a) The Board of Examiners of Dietitians and Nutritionists of Puerto Rico is hereby created, attached to the Division of Examining Boards of the Department of State of Puerto Rico, which will be responsible for all matters related to the granting, suspension and revocation of licenses to practice the professions of dietitian and nutritionist in the Island.
(b) The Board shall be comprised of five members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. These members shall enjoy good standing, be of legal age, citizens of the United States and residents of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Two of the members shall be nutritionists and two shall be dietitians. These shall hold a bachelor's degree with a major in nutrition or dietetics (according to the profession they will be representing) from a college or university accredited by the Council for Higher Education, and shall have no less than five years of experience in the practice of their respective professions at the date of their appointments. If the candidate holds a masters or doctoral degree in nutrition or dietetics or in any other related field, they shall only be required one year of experience in their field of specialty. The remaining member of the Board shall be a professional in good standing who has shown interest in the field of health and/or nutrition, who has participated in activities related to these fields, and that has practiced his profession for no less than five years.
The Governor may consider qualified candidates as members of the Board that are submitted to him by bona fide entities with legitimate interest in the work of the Board.
(c) The initial appointments shall be made for the following terms: one dietitian and one nutritionist for two years, one professional in good standing for three years and the remaining members for four years. Subsequent appointments shall be made for a term of four (4) years. Any vacancy which may occur prior to the expiration of the term of a member shall be filled for the remaining time of the term. No person shall be appointed for more than two consecutive terms.
(d) The members of the Board shall serve ad honorem, but they shall have the right to be reimbursed for per diems and travel expenses incurred while carrying out their functions, according to the applicable regulations of the Department of the Treasury.
(e) The Governor may remove from office any member of the Board, upon previous notice and hearing, for unsuitable conduct, for neglect in the fulfillment of his obligations, or for gross incompetence in the discharge of his responsibilities.
(f) The expenses incurred in the performance of this Act shall be paid from the monies collected from licensing examination fees, issuance of licenses, other legal proceedings, and from budget appropriation of unencumbered funds of the state Treasury Department.
Section 3. – Meetings of the Board
The Board shall meet at least twice a year, and as often as necessary for the best fulfillment of its functions. The Board shall elect a chairperson from among its members during the first meeting, and thereafter whenever the position becomes vacant. The resolutions of the Board shall be taken by a majority vote. Three members of the Board shall constitute a quorum.
Section 4. – Powers and Duties of the Board
The Board of Examiners hereby created by this Act shall have the following powers and duties:
(a) It shall issue licenses to practice the profession of nutritionist and dietitian in Puerto Rico.
(b) It shall adopt an official seal.
(c) It shall adopt the necessary rules and regulations in order to comply with the provisions of this Act.
(d) It shall offer examinations to assess the aptitude of license applicants.
(e) It shall investigate and resolve all complaints filed for violations to the provisions of this Act or of the regulations in the manner herein provided.
(f) It may issue subpoenas for the appearance of witnesses and it may require the presentation of documents related to any hearing that make take place for the purposes hereby stipulated. It may subpoena witnesses through the Court to compel their attendance.
(g) It shall keep a registry of the nutritionists and dietitians authorized to practice the profession in Puerto Rico. The presentation of a certificate of said registry to the courts shall constitute prima facie evidence that the person is or is not authorized to practice as such in Puerto Rico.
(h) The Board shall have power to refuse, suspend or revoke licenses in justified cases; it shall grant public hearing to the concerned party so that such person may have the opportunity of presenting witnesses or any other evidence on his behalf, and to defend himself on his own or through his lawyer.
The Board may deny licenses for the following reasons:
1. When the person tries to obtain the license through fraud or deceit.
2. Does not meet the requirements established by law.
3. Is addicted to narcotic drugs or is an habitual drunkard, or
4. Has been convicted of a felony or an act involving moral turpitude.
The Board may suspend or revoke licenses for the following reasons:
1. When the person is mentally or physically disabled and his disability is established by medical experts before the Board; Is addicted to drugs or is an habitual drunkard;
2. Has been convicted of a crime implying moral turpitude; or
3. Has incurred in negligence in the fulfillment of his responsibilities.
4. For persistent violations of this act or of the regulations.
Any person to whom a license is denied, suspended or revoked, may apply for a revision of the Board's decision through the Superior Court of Puerto Rico within thirty (30) days after being notified of the decision of the Board.
Section 5. –License Application
(a) Any applicant for a license to practice as dietitian or nutritionist in Puerto Rico shall submit his application to the Board in the official form prepared by the Board, and accompany said application with a payment voucher in the amount of ten (10) dollars, issued by the Internal Revenue Collections Office of the Department of the Treasury.
(b) Applicants that fail the examination may reapply for up to five (5) times within the term specified by regulations. A payment voucher in the amount of five (5) dollars shall be included.
(c) The Board may issue license duplicates upon previous verification that the applicant has shown to the satisfaction of the Board, that his original license has been lost or destroyed, and upon the receipt of a payment voucher in the amount of five (5) dollars issued by the Internal Revenue Collections Office, for the issuance of a new license.
(d) The Board shall determine through its regulations the valid term of the licenses issued and shall provide for their renewal. It is provided that within six months after the date of effectiveness of this Act, the Board shall issue a license without examination to any person who on the date of approval of this Act holds a degree of dietitian or nutritionist from an accredited university or college, complies with the provisions of Subsection (a) of this Section, and meets the requirements prescribed in Subsections (a) and (b) of Section 6.
Section 6.- Requirements for obtaining a license:
(a) To be a person of good moral standing, of legal age, citizen of the United States and a resident of Puerto Rico.
(b) To hold a bachelor's degree with a major in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited university or college, and to have completed an internship in nutrition or dietetics at a hospital or institution duly accredited to give such training, or in substitution of such internship.
To hold a masters or doctoral degree in nutrition or dietetics from a recognized university or college.
(c) To have approved the examination offered by the Board on the subject matters specified by the regulations.
Section 7. –
As of the date of effectiveness of this Act, only the persons holding a license issued by the Board shall have the right to practice the profession of nutritionist or dietitian in Puerto Rico and to use the corresponding title.
Section 8.- Reciprocity
The Board may grant licenses without examination to practice in Puerto Rico as nutritionists or dietitians to those persons who have pursued studies comparable to those required in Puerto Rico in a recognized college or university, and who hold licenses to work as such, granted by those states with which the Board has established reciprocity relations.
The Board shall establish in its regulations the requirements to issue temporary licenses to foreigners invited or contracted to perform as nutritionists or dietitians in Puerto Rico.
Section 9 – Penalties
Any person who practices the profession of dietitian or nutritionist in Puerto Rico, advertises as such without holding a license duly issued by the Board of Examiners created by virtue of this Act, or that during the suspension of his license practices as a person authorized therefore, shall be charged with a misdemeanor and upon conviction, shall be imposed with a fine no greater than five hundred (500) dollars, or by imprisonment for a term of no less than one (1) month, and not greater than six (6) months, or by both penalties at the discretion of the Court.
Any person who deliberately furnishes false information to obtain a license under this Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of no less than one hundred (100) dollars and no greater than five hundred (500) dollars, or by imprisonment for a term of no less than one (1) month and no greater than three (3) months, or by both penalties at the discretion of the Court.
Section 10.- Creation of the College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico.
The professionals entitled to practice the profession of nutritionist and/or dietitian in Puerto Rico, provided the absolute majority of them shall so determine in a referendum to be held for that purpose, as provided in section 19(b) of this Act, are hereby constituted into a juridical body or quasi-public corporation under the name of College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico, with domicile as determined by the initial Assembly of the College.
Section 11 – Powers and Duties of the College
A. Powers: The College shall have power:
(a) To operate perpetually under that name, to sue and be sued, as a juridical person.
(b) To possess and use a seal which may be modified at will.
(c) To adopt the canons of professional ethics that will govern the conduct of nutritionists and dietitians.
(d) To investigate the complaints filed under oath pertaining to the conduct of its members; and upon a hearing where the interested party shall be given an opportunity to defend himself, if just cause be found, request the intervention of the Board of Examiners for the appropriate action. Nothing provided here shall be interpreted in the sense of limiting the power of the Board of Examiners to an investigation on their own initiative, as they may deem necessary.
(e) To acquire rights and goods, both movable and immovable, through donations, bequests, contributions from its own members, purchases, or otherwise; and to possess, mortgage, lease and dispose of same in any legal way.
(f) To appoint its directors and officers or officials.
(g) To adopt its bylaws, which shall be binding for all its members and to amend them in the form established therein.
(h) To protect its members in the fulfillment of their profession.
(i) To exercise such incidental powers as may be necessary or convenient for the purposes of its creation and which are not in conflict with this act.
B. Duties: The College shall have the following duties and responsibilities:
(1) To work towards the improvement of the working conditions of the dietetics and nutrition work in Puerto Rico in all of its phases.
(2) To develop the increase in knowledge in nutrition and dietetics among its members for their professional development through an intensive educational program.
(3) To promote professional relations among dietitians, nutritionists and other related field personnel in Puerto Rico and other countries, with the purpose of working in coordination towards the achievement of common objectives.
(4) To offer orientation to the community on different aspects of nutrition with the purpose of improving the nutritional conditions of our people.
(5) To raise and maintain the dignity of the profession and of its members.
(6) To defend the rights and immunities of nutritionists and dietitians.
(7) To prepare the reports that the Government may request pertaining to nutrition and dietetic matters.
Section 12. –
After the first meeting of the Board of Directors of the College takes place, no one shall practice the nutritionist or dietitian profession in Puerto Rico that is not a member of the College. Anyone practicing the profession without being a member of the College will be subjected to the penalties provided in section 9 of this Act.
Any person admitted to the practice of the profession of nutritionist or dietitian in Puerto Rico may become a member of the College, as provided by this Act.
The College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico shall be governed first by its General Assembly, and second, by its Board of Directors.
The Board of Directors shall be comprised as determined by the General Assembly and shall be designated by the same.
The College bylaws shall include all such stipulations not provided for in this Act, including such matters as the functions, duties and procedures of all its bodies and officers, official announcements, meetings of the Board, elections of directors and officials, standing committees, budget or investment of funds and disposal of the property of the College, terms of all offices, declaration of vacancies and procedure for filling such vacancies.
The College is hereby authorized to impose an annual quota to be paid by its members, which shall be approved by a majority of the members attending a general assembly of the institution in which this matter is presented.
Any member that does not pay his quota shall be suspended as member, but may be reinstated upon payment of the amount owed.
(a) Within fifteen (15) days from the date of effectiveness of this Act, and for the purpose set forth in Section 10, the Association of Dietetics of Puerto Rico and the American Association of Dietitians, Inc., Puerto Rico Chapter, shall send to the Board a list of their respective members.
(b) Within sixty (60) days from the date of effectiveness of this act, and for the same purpose set forth above, the Board of Examiners of Nutritionists and Dietitians shall consult, through a written referendum sent by mail to all those individuals qualified to become members of the College, whether they wish for the College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico be constituted or not, as provided by this Act. The answers may not be conditional, but absolute in the affirmative or negative; they shall be handwritten by the interested party, and shall be open for free inspection to any members of the nutritionist and dietitian professions who so requests it.
(c) The Board of Examiners shall count the votes cast in the referendum no later than thirty (30) days after the referendum has been held.
(d) Once a majority of the consulted individuals have pronounced themselves in favor or against the College, the Board shall report the results in writing to the Governor and to all the nutritionists and dietitians of Puerto Rico.
Should the results of the referendum provided in Section 19(b) hereof be in the affirmative, the Board of Examiners of Nutritionists and Dietitians shall convene an Initial General Assembly to be held within thirty (30) days after the date in which the communication provided in Section 19(d) was made, and shall convene, by mail and through two general circulation newspapers, all the dietitians and nutritionists who on that date are authorized to practice the profession in Puerto Rico, with the purpose of electing the first board of directors and to resolve on the bylaws of the College. This assembly shall be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
If the members present in this first assembly are less than one half plus one of the total of the members called, the assembly shall not be held, but those in attendance may designate, by majority, another date for another assembly to be held for identical purpose and in like manner as the previous one, without there being less than thirty (30) days from the date for which the original assembly was convened. In the second call, the assembly may be held with any number of attendees, and the resolutions adopted or any actions taken by the majority of those present shall be valid.
Section 21. –
If the result of the referendum favors the establishment of the College of Nutritionists and Dietitians of Puerto Rico, this shall be the successor and continuance of the juridical person of the Puerto Rico Dietetics Association, which was registered under Number 64, on August 11, 1959, in the Department of State of Puerto Rico.
If the results of the referendum authorized in section 19(d) hereof should result adverse, the Puerto Rico Dietetics Association shall continue to be active.
Section 22. –
This Act shall be effective six (6) months after its approval.
Approved on May 31, 1972.