A 14-month-old Italian baby, who was reportedly fed a vegan diet, has been removed from his parents after arriving at a Milan hospital seriously malnourished.
The baby, whose name has not been released, was taken to hospital by his grandparents a week ago and doctors were shocked to see the poor state of the baby's health and a body weight only just slightly higher than a newborn.
Blood tests revealed the child, who was born in May 2015, was severely malnourished with calcium levels barely adequate to survive. The baby was also suffering from a congenital heart condition which required emergency surgery. He is now recovering in hospital.
"This forces us to reflect on uncommon feeding regimes, even if in this case it was complicated by a cardiac malformation," said Luca Bernardo, director of paediatrics at the hospital that took him in.
"It is not a problem to choose different or unusual kinds of nutrition and we certainly do not want to enter into a discussion of the merits of the decision. But since birth, the baby should have had support in this case with calcium and iron."
The hospital immediately reported the case to police and prosecutors opened an inquiry and ordered the baby to be formally removed from his parents.
The baby's future is now in the hands of the children's court which will determine whether his grandparents should have custody.
It is not the first time that vegan diets have provoked alarm in Italy. Four children have been hospitalised within the last 18 months and a malnourished toddler spent several days in intensive care in a Genoa hospital last month.
The 2-year-old girl was taken to the Istituto Gaslini, a paediatric hospital in Genoa, in a serious condition and transferred to intensive care with vitamin deficiencies and other medical issues.
Last year police began an investigation into the parents of an 11-month-old baby who was treated for malnutrition in Tuscany while a Bergamo court ordered a vegetarian mother to cook meat for her son after the boy's father complained about his macrobiotic diet after the parents' divorce.
Veganism appears to be on the rise in Italy and some media reports estimate around 2.8 per cent of the population now avoid all animal products.