July 11, 2016 11:38 am
Updated: July 11, 2016 11:56 am

Italian couple loses custody of child after strict vegan diet lands him in hospital

Chef Eraj showcases vegan meal ideas.

Shannon Cuciz/ Global News

A 14-month-old toddler in Italy has been taken away from his parents after a strict vegan diet reportedly led to a severe case of malnutrition.

Doctors said the child’s weight was only slightly higher than that of a newborn, and blood tests revealed that his calcium levels were “the minimum needed to survive,” reports the Italian news site The Local.

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The toddler, whose name hasn’t been reported, was brought to the Fatebenefratelli hospital in Milan by his grandparents on July 2. A local judge said the child’s parents fed him “a strict vegan diet which was incompatible with his young age,” without any dietary supplements.

READ MORE: Albertans switch to raw vegan diet to test health benefits

At the hospital, the child had to undergo emergency surgery when it was discovered that he had a congenital heart condition. Officials say though the condition wasn’t caused by his diet, the low levels of calcium may have aggravated it.

“This forces us to reflect on uncommon feeding regimes, even if in this case it was complicated by a cardiac malformation,” the hospital’s director of paediatrics, Luca Bernardo, told The Telegraph.

“It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron.”

The case was reported to social services when parents refused to change his diet, The Local reports.

His parents then lost custody of him, and he remains in the custody of the hospital.

It’s unclear whether parents have been accused of mistreatment, but a restrictive diet can be considered neglect in Italy, the news site says.

READ MORE: Alberta meningitis trial: Couple found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life to their son

This is the fourth time the country has encountered such a problem in the past two years.

In June, a two-year-old girl was hospitalized in Genoa and put in intensive care for days after she was found with low levels of vitamin B12 and haemoglobin as well as poor responsiveness. She has reportedly recovered well since her admittance.

In 2015, police investigated a couple after an 11-month old baby was diagnosed with malnutrition.

Another case saw the court order a mother to cook meat for her son after a father complained about his diet.

Italian media reports say around 2.8 per cent of the population adhere to a strict vegan diet, which doesn’t allow any consumption of animal products.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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