Parents who raise their children on a vegan diet could face prison under a proposed law in Italy.
An MP in the centre-right Forza Italia party is proposing the legislation which would criminalise parents who fail to provide children aged 16 and under with a diet that has “essential elements for healthy growth”. Those found guilty could face up to two years in prison.
Elvira Savino explained that vegetarian and vegan diets were becoming increasingly popular in Italy, and that while adults are free to eat what they want, children need to protection from “radicalised” parents who would deprive them of “essential elements needed for a healthy physical and cognitive development”.
La Repubblica reports that Ms Savino claims the vegan diet is deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega 3, all of which are necessary for proper development.
She adds that her law is intended to “definitively stigmatise reckless and dangerous dietary conduct imposed by parents” on their children.
For the basic offense of failing to provide their children with a proper diet, parents could face up to one year in prison. However, if the children are “permanently sick or hurt”, the jail term can rise to two and half years.
If the child were to die, the parent would face six years in prison.
The prosed law follows an incident last month, when a baby in the city of Milan was taken to hospital for severe malnutrition after his parents tried to raise him on a vegan diet.
Just a month earlier, a two-year-old girl from Genoa was hospitalised and spent several days in intensive care after she was found to be suffering from vitamin deficiencies and low haemoglobin.
In 2011, a French couple were charged with child neglect after their baby died of vitamin deficiencies. They had tried to raise her on a vegan diet.