Parents who force their kids to eat vegan food could risk jail time under a controversial bill proposed in the Italian parliament.
The draft legislation was put forward this week by Elvira Savino of the Forza Italia party, the populist center-right party led by Silvio Berlusconi. It proposes that parents who feed their children, aged 16 and under, an “inadequate” vegan diet should be held legally responsible. It suggests a year in jail for raising a child on a vegan diet, four years if the child becomes permanently ill from the diet, and up to seven years if the child dies.
"I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults," Savino told Reuters on Wednesday. "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."
The news comes as a reaction to the four cases of children who have been hospitalized in Italy over the past 18 months after being fed vegan diets, the BBC reports.
The American Dietetic Association argue that the health of vegan children is a very under-researched area. Nevertheless, they say that children who are fed vegan diets have “generally met” their nutritional needs, provided their diets are appropriately managed and contain adequate energy and variety.
The draft has unsurprisingly spurred debate in both Italy and the wider world. Some have argued the bill remains hazy on the issue of childhood obesity, which many consider to be a more serious problem. Others have argued that improved education on health and nutrition could address the problem far more effectively.