Centre-right MP says he wants law aimed at protecting children from diets that can leave them lacking in iron and other vitamins
An Italian politician is calling for laws that would see parents prosecuted for imposing vegan diets and other reckless and dangerous eating behavour on their children.
Elvira Savino, the deputy of the centre-right Forza Italia party, has proposed legislation that would see parents who give their children aged 16 and under an inadequate diet 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, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
It encompassed vegan diets those without meat, eggs, dairy or animal products of any kind which Savino said 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 a parliamentarian in 2008, wrote in the 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 proposed a one-year prison sentence for the basic offence, extended if the child is aged under three.
The suggested penalty for parents whose children became sick or injured as a result of malnutrition ranged from two years and six months to four years, and four to six years if death resulted.
But the Italian Society of Food Science rejected Savinos assertions, with president Andrea Ghiselli telling La Repubblica that diets containing excessive sugar and fat were 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.
A one-year-old boy in Milan raised on a strict vegan diet was last month 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 pediatric hospital in Genoa, being treated for vitamin deficiencies as a result of her vegan diet.
In mid-April last year, an Italian court ruled that a woman in Bergamo, northern Italy, must cook meat for her son at least once a week following complaints from the boys father.
She had been raising him on a macrobiotic diet, the Local reported.