Did an Italian deputy really propose a bill to incarcerate vegan or vegetarian parents who impose those diets on their children?
Well, yes, and no.
In her introduction to the bill (here in Italian), proponent On. Elvira Salvino is quite adamant: vegan and vegetarian diets lead to nutritional deficiencies, and while adults are free to adopt them for themselves, they should not impose them on their kids. She also mentions recent cases where young children of allegedly strict vegan parents were hospitalised with severe malnutrition.
However, the clause that (if approved) would eventually become law, actually punishes a
diet devoid of essential elements for healthy and balanced growth.
Words like “vegan” or “vegetarian” simply disappear.
So, technically no, the bill is not against vegan or vegetarian parents. And, let me add, there is no way they could have reasonably been mentioned in it.
In the way it was formulated, this bill raises so many questions it’s actually hard to know where to start.
The cases of severely malnourished kids were real, and according to the newspapers, their diet was strictly vegan.
But what was really going on at home? Was the diet of those kids the only cause for their state, or were there other medical conditions, maybe unknown to their parents, that put their life at risk?
And, instead of sending them to jail, why not assume that those parents were acting in good faith, and were simply misinformed about how to feed their kids properly?
And what about kids with obesity, whose rate in Italy is increasing among the underage population? Should their parents be jailed as well, considering that the law would punish whoever imposes a poor diet on their children? Unless, of course, there are other concurrent conditions for obesity, which would bring us back to square one.
And on and on…
Nutrition is already a controversial topic among adults, and when you add children to the picture it gets even more delicate. A bill that was probably put together in a couple of hours of internet surfing is not going to be of any use (and it’s probably not going anywhere).
There’s no Nobel prize in PR (but maybe there should be one)
Last June, a group of Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to Greenpeace, asking them to “abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular.”
Golden Rice is a project that started in the 90s. Its purpose is to genetically engineer a type of rice that is rich in beta-Carotene, the substance that gives carrots their colour and is a precursor of vitamin A. The final goal is to help prevent vitamin A deficiencies among those populations where rice is a staple food.
The appeal to Greenpeace seems to make perfect sense. Lack of vitamin A can lead to blindness and death, so it would be hard to deny (even for opponents to GMOs) that the intentions of the Golden Rice project are truly good.
Except that, after more than twenty years and a lot of money invested, Golden Rice is still very far from being ready. And even if it were, it’s not at all sure that it would be of any help. beta-Carotene needs an enzyme to be converted into vitamin A, and as Marion Nestle pointed out, it’s not just a nutritional issue, but also a social one:
Fruits and vegetables containing beta-carotene are widely available in such areas, but are not grown or consumed as a result of cultural or economic issues. If they are consumed, people cannot absorb the beta-carotene because of poor diets, diarrheal diseases, or worms.
Frankly, it’s hard to believe that nobody advised those Nobel laureates to stick to GMOs in general in their appeal. By focusing on Golden Rice, they made it very easy for Greenpeace, who could simply reply: there’s no need for us to block the project, because it’s already doing a great job on its own.
A different question would have probably forced Greenpeace to give a more articulated answer.
See also: Millions Spent, No One Served: Who Is to Blame for the Failure of GMO Golden Rice?
The pizza delivery guy knows more about you than you think
Creating a correlation between two sets of data that probably have nothing to do with each other is an unfortunate practice in nutritional science, but sometimes it can be fun.
A good example is the Pizza Meter, a report that Domino’s Pizza published for a short time in the 90s, with observations like: People who answered the door wearing polyester ordered 9 percent more vegetarian pizzas than those sporting natural fibres.
What Can Pizza Tell Us About Ourselves?
Sit back, sample, relax
Good news for those who are allergic or sensitive to gluten (or simply pretty darn serious about avoiding it at all costs): a San Francisco-based startup developed a portable gluten tester called Nima. Dining out is about to become more relaxing.
And before letting you go on your way…
An article I wrote for Triple Pundit, about the good deeds that the food industry is being forced to do, to answer consumers’ demands:
Consumers Spoke, Big Food Listened: How the Food Market is Changing