An Italian MP wants parents jailed for imposing vegan diets and other “reckless and dangerous eating behaviour” on their children.
Elvira Savino, of disgraced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, has proposed laws that would see parents who give an “inadequate” diet to children aged 16 and under sentenced to up to six years in prison.
Known as the “Savino law”, it aims to “stigmatise the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed by parents … to the detriment of minors”.
It is aimed at vegan diets – those without meat, eggs, dairy or animal products of any kind – which Savino says can leave children lacking in the iron, zinc, B12 and other vitamins necessary for their development.
Savino, who worked in public relations before being elected in 2008, wrote in her introduction to the law that the belief that “a vegetarian diet, even in the rigid form of a vegan diet, results in significant health benefits” was becoming more widespread in Italy.
“There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. A problem arises when children are involved.”
To counteract “ideological excesses” linked to diet, she proposes a one-year prison sentence for the basic offence, extended if the child is aged under three.
The suggested penalty for parents whose children become sick or injured as a result of malnutrition ranges from two years and six months to four years, and four to six years if death results.
The Italian Society of Food Science rejects Savino’s claims. President Andrea Ghiselli told La Repubblica newspaper that diets containing excessive sugar and fat are of greater concern than the risks of deficiency of a vegan diet.
The proposal follows a string of high-profile cases of malnutrition brought on by veganism.
Last month, a one-year-old Milan boy raised on a strict vegan diet was removed from his parents’ custody after he was found to be severely malnourished, weighing just 5kg.
Levels of calcium in his blood were said to be at the lowest necessary for him to survive and he underwent emergency surgery because of a heart condition, the English-language Italian news site The Local reported.
In June, a two-year-old toddler spent several days in intensive care in a Genoa hospital, treated for vitamin deficiencies as a result of her vegan diet.
Last year, a court ruled that a woman in Bergamo, northern Italy, must cook meat for her son at least once a week following complaints from the boy’s father. She had been raising him on a macrobiotic diet, The Local reported.