Parents in Italy who subject their child to a vegan diet could face anywhere between one to six years imprisonment under a proposed new bill in Italy.

Elvira Savino, of the centre right Forza Party, has brought a new bill before the Italian Parliament that, if passed, will make it a criminal offence for parents or guardians to have their children under the age of 16 on a vegan diet.

This comes after four incidents reportedly occurred in Italy over the last 18 months where malnourished children were hospitalised after their parents imposed a vegan diet on them.

A one-year-old boy on a vegan diet was taken to hospital due to an underweight issue, where it is understood doctors found he weighed the same as a three-month-old baby.

Another two-year-old child, also on a vegan diet, was taken into intensive care due to mineral deficiencies.

Savino says that a vegan diet is deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3, while a vegan diet, the bill claims, is devoid of essential elements for healthy and balanced growth [of children].

However, dieticians from the American Dietetic Association say that feeding a child on such a diet is safe to do so as long as parents ensure that their children receive the nutrients they require, especially vitamin B12.

Should the bill pass and be signed into law then any harm a vegan diet causes a child such as an illness, permanent injury or death will mean parents could receive a prison sentence between two to six years.

Extra penalties will apply to the offender if the child is under the age of three, according to the bill.

Savino’s proposed bill will be discussed by parliamentary committees before going to the chamber for debate. Some nutrition experts have challenged the bill while other experts have said that if this bill is passed it should be used to apply penalties onto parents of obese children too.