Visiting Italy and passing on the country’s world-class cheeses, meats, and seafood may seem like a ghastly travel crime. But if you live in the country and do the same with your kids, it could soon be a real crime.
Conservative lawmaker Elvira Savino recently proposed a law that would prohibit parents from keeping their kids on a strict vegan diet—that is, one that abstains from meat, fish, dairy products, and sometimes other animal products such as honey and gelatin. The text of the law describes such a diet as “devoid of elements essential for healthy and balanced growth.”
If the law is passed, parents found in violation would face up to a year in prison. But if a child becomes ill or dies on the diet, the parents would face boosted jail time of up to four or six years, respectively. The law applies to parents of kids 16 and under, with the harshest penalties going to parents of kids three and under.
Lawmakers are expected to take up the proposed legislation later this year.
"I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults," Savino told Reuters this week. "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."
Nutrition experts, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, have found that vegan and vegetarian diets, which can include dairy and eggs, can be safe for kids if they are thoughtfully planned out. Parents need to pay special attention to their kids' levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, calcium, protein, and fiber.
Savino’s bill argues that most vegan and vegetarian parents don’t do that and fail to consult medical professionals.
Her proposal comes on the heels of several high-profile cases of Italian children being hospitalized for malnourishment after being fed vegan diets. In July, Milan doctors were shocked to find that a one-year-old vegan boy had the weight of a three-month-old. His parents subsequently lost custody. Last year, an Italian court ordered a mother to stop raising her 12-year-old son as a vegan after the boy’s father alleged that the diet was stunting his growth.
Still, according to the BBC, many health experts are skeptical of the bill. They argue that better nutrition education and public health campaigns would be more effective at keeping kids safe than possible jail time for their parents.
Raising your kid as a vegan could soon be a crime in Italy | Ars Technica