Imposing Vegan Diet on Children Could Mean a Jail Term For Italian Parents

A new draft legislation proposed by Italian parliamentarian Elvira Savino could mean trouble for parents who force their children to stick to a vegetarian diet. The bill proposes that parents responsible for children under the age of 16 years who show signs of malnutrition as a result of a restrictive diet should serve up to four years in Italian jails.

Savino, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative Froza party said that her decision to introduce the draft was provoked by an increase in high-profile cases of subjective diets that have resulted to long-term illnesses in children in the country. In 2015, doctors in Milan reported a case of a one-year-old boy who was taken to the hospital with a weight of a three-month baby. Further inquiries revealed that the boy was fed on a vegan diet only. In the same year, a mother of a 12-year-old boy was ordered by an Italian court to stop feeding her child on a raw vegetable diet after his father filed a case that the diet was affecting the boy’s normal growth.

According to Savino, many parents without proper scientific or medical knowledge have a strong believe that vegan diet can help prevent health problems. They depend on the diet to an extent of denying their children crucial nutritional elements for healthy growth, which are absent in vegetables.

A vegan diet is devoid of meat, fish and poultry. People who adhere to this diet do not eat meat, eggs, milk or any other product that comes from animals. While the diet is good for many, it can be detrimental to children who need a balanced nutrient supply to grow and enjoy a healthy life. Vegetables contain vitamins as the main nutrients with limited essential nutrients like minerals and high-quality proteins. Depending exclusively on a diet characterized by vegetables could increase the level of toxicity in the body because the diet tends to impair the detoxification pathways of the liver and decrease the amount of digestive juices in the gut. Nutritionists encourage parents to counterbalance between vegetables and other foods for their kids.

If enacted into law, parents found guilty will serve jail sentences starting from one year up to four years. The jail term will be extended to seven years if a child dies because of the strict vegan diet.