Scientists accept first-ever lawyer into their fold

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Veteran food lawyer Jonathan W Emord has become the first non-scientist to be accepted onto the American College of Nutrition’s Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS).

Emord, who has represented more than 450 food industry clients over 20 years will take a two-year term on the CBNS, which is the scientific certifying arm of the American College of Nutrition (ACN).

“I am honored to have been nominated and selected by the CBNS board,”​ said Emord. “It is humbling to be the only non-scientist member of the board,” he said, “I will do my level best to advance the mission of this worthwhile organization and to encourage support for its good programs.”

Positions on the CBNS are only available to those who possess a master’s, doctoral, or professional level degree in nutrition science or a closely allied subject and who meet the stringent requirements of the CBNS.

Newly elected President of the CBNS Dr Robert I Lin said Emord was selected because of his knowledge of nutritional science and experience in translating that knowledge into the courts.

Emord told he was surprised to receive the posting but looked forward to working with Dr Lin and others on the board in developing testing protocols for new members and to advance the cause of nutritional science.

“I am not a qualified scientist and therefore cannot give official input into the peer review process but have spent more than two decades evaluating nutritional science so undoubtedly there are many ways I can give input,”​ he said.


Emord’s firm, Virginia-based law firm, Emord & Associates, is involved in several actions against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Feedreal Trade Commission (FTC) over qualified health claims.

The actions allege the FDA and FTC are in breach of case law and First Amendment freedom of speech principles by restricting the manner in which companies can communicate health benefits about products where the evidence is less than conclusive.

One of the actions challenges five selenium​-based qualified cancer health claims and seeks “declaratory and injunctive relief” ​from the FDA​ and​US Department of Health and Human Services,​ followed a 1999 case (Pearson versus Shalala) which validated qualified health claim messaging as a First Amendment freedom of speech right.

“The system works from an artificially truncated universe of science so that many of the claims come with so many negative disclaimers that they become unusable,”​ Emord told in July.

“The FDA is refusing to honor the Court’s ruling in Pearson v Shalala and the mandates governing the qualified health claims system. The law states you cannot censor statements of science simply because the science is inconclusive. That is not an aspirational goal of the plaintiffs, it is the governing law presently. FDA is the radical here, going against the express constitutional mandates of the federal courts.”

One of the submitted claims, for prostate cancer, stated in its original form:

“Selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Scientific evidence supporting this claim is convincing but not yet conclusive.”

The FDA’s disputed modification read: “Two weak studies suggest that selenium intake may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. However, four stronger studies and three weak studies showed no reduction in risk. Based on these studies, FDA concludes that it is highly unlikely that selenium supplements reduce the risk of prostate cancer.”

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