The hearing into whether Professor Tim Noakes was guilty of “unprofessional conduct” for advising a mother to put her baby onto a banting diet, has been postponed until November on a technicality.
The Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) laid a complaint against Noakes with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) after he advised a mother to wean hear baby onto low carbohydrate, high fact (LCHF) foods via the social media platform, Twitter.
The hearing was postponed after Noakes’ lawyer, Michael van der Nest, complained that the the committee assigned to hear the complaint did not comply with regulations. According to the Health Professions Act, the committee should include at least three people registered with the same professional board as the accused.
Noakes is registered with the Medical and Dental Council (MDC) as a general practitioner (GP). But the committee assigned by the MDC only included one other GP, a paediatrician (who is registered at the same board but under another discipline) and a dietician (who is registered with the Dietetics and Nutrition Professional Board).
The HPCSA’s pro forma prosecutor Meshack Mapholisa asked that the technicality be overlooked, arguing that the expertise of a paediatrician and dietician were relevant to the case in which Noakes is being tried for administering dietary advice to a toddler.
But Van der Nest maintained that Noakes should only be tried by his peers, but that other professionals could be called in as witnesses.
The committee chair, advocate Joan Adams, agreed that the committee was not properly constituted and postponed the hearing until an additional member with the appropriate qualification could be appointed.
This is the second time that the composition of the committee will change after it came to light that a former member, Professor Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen, who had previous run-ins with Noakes, had stepped down.
ADSA president Claire Julsing Strydom said that she was eager to have the matter resolved. ADSA believes that the advice Noakes administered via Twitter was not in accordance with both international (World Health Organisation Guiding principles for complementary feeding of the breastfed child) and national (South African Paediatric Food Based Guidelines) feeding guidelines for infant and young child nutrition.
“Also, giving one-on-one nutrition advice on social media to a patient who has not been assessed, as well as providing information outside the scope of practice for which you are registered with the council is in contravention of the HPCSA ethical guidelines,” said the ADSA in a statement.
Meanwhile, Real Meal Revolution co-author, Jonno Proudfoo told Health-e News: “We stand behind Prof Noakes in his right to (informed) freedom of speech and to ensuring that information is available to all who need it.” – Health-e News.