Vegan and vegetarian diets have historically had a tendency to be divisive, but they’re usually just a matter of personal choice. However, if a member of the Italian government has their way, going veggie or vegan (for kids) may now be a matter of legal issue.
Italian lawmaker Elvira Savino, a member of Italy’s right wing Forza party, proposed legislation this week that would punish parents that put their children on a vegan or vegetarian diet, on claims that their restrictive nature is malnourishing.
According to Italian newspaper la Repubblica, the bill would make it a criminal offense for parents to feed their children meals that “categorically and unwisely” avoid animal and dairy products. It goes on to call these practices “reckless,” due to its lack of iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin D, Quartz reported.
However, the American Dietetic Association released a statement in 2009 that deemed vegan and vegetarian diets as healthy for both adults and children alike, if conducted mindfully.
“Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes,” the statement reads.
According to Reuters, part of the heightened outcry in Italy is due to a public case of a child being hospitalized as a result of lack of nutrients from being fed a vegan diet. The bill as it stands would give a one-year jail sentence to parents who force children under 16 on a restrictive diet and will increase to up to four years if the child is harmed or injured as a result.
But is is fair to punish parents for putting their children on a diet that the ADA has deemed healthy? As Forbes contributor Rita Rubin inquires, should there be consequences for parents that feed their families fast food every day?
“When I heard about Elvira Savino’s proposed legislation, I couldn’t help but wonder what’s next?” she writes. “Jail time if you feed your children fast food five days a week or let them sit in front of a television or computer screen for five hours a day?”
Regardless, we just hope Italy’s children stay safe and healthy.