Vegan diets—which forbid adherents from consuming meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and other animal byproducts—are on the rise. In fact, a recent survey shows that Britain’s number of vegans has soared by more than 360 percent over the past 10 years. But according to the BBC, one Italian official doesn’t think the lifestyle is right for the whole family. Parliamentarian Elvira Savino, a member of the country’s conservative Forza Italia party, has proposed a controversial bill: Parents who make their kids eat vegan should face jail time, it states.

The bill, as quoted by the BBC, argues that a vegan diet is "devoid of essential elements for [children's] healthy and balanced growth.” It comes in the wake of a series of highly publicized cases over the last 18 months, in which four malnourished Italian children were hospitalized after following their parents’ vegan meal plans.

Savino says she doesn’t care if informed adults follow a vegetarian or vegan diet but believes the lifestyle is harmful to kids. It doesn’t provide them with the necessary vitamins or minerals to healthfully grow, she claims. Her bill would "stigmatize the reckless and dangerous eating behavior imposed by parents."

The bill would apply to children under 16, NBC News reports. If passed, offenders would face up to a year of jail time. If a child fell ill or were injured, this time would increase to a maximum of four years; and if a child were to die, to seven. Penalties would be more severe for parents of children under 3 years of age.

According to Reuters, the proposed bill is still in the works. Parliamentary committees will discuss it, and later this year it will likely arrive at the chamber for a final debate.

To some, the bill is extreme. Some physicians don’t approve of vegan or vegetarian diets for kids, but the American Dietetic Association reportedly says that children can follow vegan diets if they consume the required nutrients, especially vitamin B12. (A few doctors have weighed in on Italy's recent hospitalizations, guessing that the parents of the malnourished youngsters might not have known how to adapt the diet for kids.)

Meanwhile, other critics say that the bill’s language is imprecise and that the wording could be skewed to punish obese children, in addition to vegans or vegetarians. And some simply think that improved public health knowledge—not jail time—is the answer.

[h/t BBC News]

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