Vegans adopt vegetarian diet because of the associated health benefits which include reduced risk for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. A proposed law in Italy, however, may get vegan parents to jail if they impose their diet on their young children.
Vegetarians do not eat fish, poultry and meat as well as animal products such as dairy food and eggs. While adult vegans may contend that the diet is good for their body, pediatricians do not advise raising children on a vegan diet because it lacks sufficient nutrition.
The proposed law comes after several cases emerged in Italy of undernourishment linked to vegan diet. A 1-year-old child in Milan, for instance, was found to have the weight of a 3-month-old after having been fed with a vegan diet. A 12-year-old boy, on the other hand, suffered from stunted growth because of his mother's choice of vegan food for her son.
Once this bill is approved, Italian parents can no longer restrict their children to vegan options and prevent them from indulging in the country's meat and cheeses. The proposed law seeks to imprison parents who feed their children with vegan diets, which the legislation finds comparable to domestic abuse.
The proposed jail sentence for raising children on a vegan diet would be at least one year but it can increase up to four years if permanent health problems arise because of the diet. Seven years of jail sentence will be imposed if the child dies as a result of feeding exclusively on vegan diet.
Elvira Savino, from the conservative Forza Italia party, who presented the law in the the lower house Chamber of Deputies, said that she has nothing against vegans provided that veganism is a free choice made by adults.
"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," Savino said.
Savino said that pediatricians should be obliged to report vegan parents to authorities just as what they should do if they find signs of physical abuse on children.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics nonetheless said that veganism in itself is not necessarily dangerous to children saying that well-planned vegan eating patterns can be healthy for infants and toddlers.
The proposed law will be discussed by parliamentary committees before it will be debated in the lower chamber later this year.