Vegetables at a market in Milan, Italy
Vegetables at a market in Milan, ItalyReuters

New legislation proposed by the Forza Italia party in Italy would see parents who impose vegan diets on their children being handed down prison sentences. Elvira Savino, who proposed the law, said that there was "no objection" to adults who choose to follow vegan and vegetarian diets.

But, Savino added, "a problem arises when children are involved." Parents whose children suffered from malnutrition related problems as a result of their diet could face up to four years in jail – with a possible longer sentence for children under three-years-old.

Savino said that the restrictive diets can leave children lacking important vitamins and minerals. She also said that the diets had been rising in popularity in Italy.

The draft law comes after a number of high profile cases of Italian children being taken from their parents as the diets imposed on them were deemed harmful to their health. In July, a one-year-old was removed from his parents after his strict vegan diet had left him with a severe calcium deficiency and the weight of a three-month-old.

At least three other case of children being taken from vegan parents have occurred in Italy in the last 18 months. According to The Times, around 7% of Italy's population are thought to be vegetarian, with just one percent following a vegan diet.