Feeding your child a vegan diet? Parents could face jail time in Italy

WATCH ABOVE: One parliamentarian in Italy has introduced a controversial bill that could jail parents who impose a vegan diet on their children. This comes after a number of high-profile cases where malnourished children have been hospitalized due to veganism.

Parents, if you’re putting your kids on a vegan diet, a proposed law in Italy could have you thrown in jail.

Italian politician Elvira Savino is introducing a new bill that would hold parents legally responsible for handing their kids “a diet devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth.”

“I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults,” she told Reuters in a phone interview.

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“I just find it absurd that some parents are allowed to impose their will on children in an almost fanatical, religious way, often without proper scientific knowledge or medical consultation…do-it-yourself on these matters terrorizes me,” she told the wire service.

The bill from the conservative Forza Italia party’s parliamentarian aims to “stigmatize the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed to children by parents who pursue a vegan diet,” according to the bill written in Italian.

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Parents who restrict their children to a vegan diet are imposing a diet that is “lacking in essential elements that allow a child to grow healthy and balanced.”

“In the last decade, there has been a spreading belief that the vegetarian and vegan diet can have substantial health benefits. There is no objection to this if the person making the choice is an informed adult who can take responsibility for their actions. The problem arises when there are children involved,” the bill reads.

The proposed law would throw parents in jail for a year for raising kids on a vegan diet, and up to four years of jail-time if kids develop long-term health implications from their diet. If the child dies, the penalty is six years, according to the bill.

READ MORE: Spanish baby develops scurvy after parents feed him almond milk-only diet

A vegan diet consists of only plant-derived foods. Vegans don’t consume any animals or animal products, including milk, eggs or honey.

Vegetarians don’t eat meat or fish. But keep in mind, both diets can be incredibly healthy: plant-based sources of protein are readily available, such as beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, tofu and soy.

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“A well-balanced vegetarian diet can provide for the needs of children and adolescents. However, appropriate caloric intake should be ensured and growth monitored. Particular attention should be paid to adequate protein intake and sources of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins B12 and D,” the Canadian Paediatric Society said in a position statement.

“Supplementation may be required in cases of strict vegetarian diets with no intake of any animal products,” it said.

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There have been four cases in the last 18 months in Italy where malnourished children have been hospitalized due to veganism.

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In the most recent case, a 14-month-old toddler was taken away from his parents in July when doctors said the child’s weight was only slightly higher than a newborn.

In a custody battle in court, 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.

The child, whose name wasn’t released, had to undergo an emergency surgery for a heart condition most likely aggravated by the diet.  Blood tests revealed that if the child’s calcium level was any lower, he wouldn’t have survived.

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