Parents should face a posible prison sentence if they impose a vegan diet on their children, according to an Italian politician who says it can make children malnourished.
The legislation was proposed by Elvira Savino of the Forza Italia party, and would see parents who provide their children with an “inadequate” diet handed sentences of up to four years in jail.
Vegan diets often leave children lacking in iron, zinc and important vitamins for growth, according to Ms Savino, with neurological problems and anaemia leading on from severe malnutrition.
The ‘Savino law’ aims to “stigmatise the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed by parents” who pursue a vegan diet, “to the detriment of minors”.
Under the conditions of the proposal, the member of parliament wrote: “For some years the belief has been spreading in Italy that a vegetarian diet, even in the rigid form of a vegan diet, results in significant health benefits.
“There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. A problem arises when children are involved.”
There have been four recent high-profile cases of malnourished children being removed from the care of their parents, after they had been coerced into adopting a vegan diet.
In July, a 14-month-old boy from Milan was taken into hospital with severe calcium deficiency, after it was found it weighed the same as a three-month-old child.
A judge told the boy’s parents they were no longer allowed to look after him, as they had neglected him by forcing him to follow a diet which was “incompatible” with his young age.
Last year a vegetarian mother was ordered by a court to cook meat for her son at least once a week, according to Italian news agency Eco di Bergamo.
Meanwhile critics of the proposed law have argued there was a more pressing need for emphasis on tackling Italy’s childhood obesity problem.
Around one per cent of Italy’s population is currently thought to pursue a vegan diet, with a further seven per cent vegetarians.
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