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Italian parents could go to jail for making kids follow this diet

Posted August 20

The Italian parliament is considering a proposal that would put parents in jail if they restrict their children to a particular diet. (Deseret Photo)

Several children whose parents are vegan have been treated for malnourishment in Italy this year. And at least one Italian lawmaker is reacting, sponsoring a bill that, if passed, would send to jail any parents who force a vegan diet on their kids.

"There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. The problem arises when children are involved. ... The vegetarian or vegan diet is, in fact, deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3"," the bill's sponsor was quoted by the BBC.

A vegan diet eliminates all animal products, including meats, dairy and honey, among others.

The American Dietetic Association has also taken a position on vegan and vegetarian diets for children, but its conclusion was quite different. According to its policy statement, "It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. 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 association noted the importance, however, of making certain that adherents of vegan or vegetarian diets supplement where needed to get the right balance of nutrients, including zinc, calcium and others. Of particular concern with a vegan diet, it said, is getting adequate B-12.

According to the BBC, passage of the Italian bill could send parents to jail for a year. If a child is injured by the diet, a parent could serve four years. A child's death from the diet would result in six years of incarceration.

"While some nutrition experts have challenged the validity of the bill, other commentators have cautioned that its imprecise wording means it could be used to penalize a far greater range of parents than vegans or vegetarians — for instance, the parents of obese children," the BBC reported.

"Some say better public health education rather than punitive measures would be more effective at improving children's nutrition," it said.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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  • Erika Phipps Aug 20, 8:09 p.m.
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    I'm conflicted about criminalizing the raising of children as vegans, but it IS a terrible thing to do to growing humans. I know firsthand how complicated, time consuming and expensive it can be to make sure vegetarian children get all the protein, vitamins, and minerals they need from birth, through their teens. But it was worth it for our family. However, I also learned a that while a strict vegan diet is a happy choice for some adults, and an excuse for anorexia in others, human children must have more protein and fats than vegan diets provide. Period.