Two-year-old Chiara (not her real name) was brought to the Istituto Giannina Gaslini, a pediatric hospital in Genoa, in a serious condition.
She was immediately transferred to intensive care after she was found to be suffering from a lack of the vitamin B12, a low level of haemoglobin, slowed movements and poor responsiveness. The toddler also weighed significantly less than the average for her age, according to the local edition of La Repubblica.
Chiara's health problems are thought to be linked to her vegan diet; her parents have both been vegans for several years and the child was breastfed by her mother before being raised on the same diet, avoiding both meat and products with animal origins. She is also undergoing checks for any genetic diseases which may have contributed to her illness.
Fortunately, after several days in intensive care, she is reportedly recovering well and was moved to a convalescence ward.
Social services have been notified; although the parents are not suspected of mistreatment, restrictive diets can fall into the category of 'neglect'.
While a vegan diet will not necessarily have a negative impact on a child's health, it may lead to deficiences in vitamin B12, which may cause permanent brain damage and is particularly serious in small children, as well as a lack of zinc, folic acid and iron.
Liguria's Association of Pediatrics recommends that parents raising their children as vegans should ensure that regular health checks are carried out by medical professionals, who might prescribe vitamin supplements. In Genoa, parents may request that schools provide children with vegan meals, but only if they provide a medical certificate proving that a doctor is aware of the child's diet.
This is the third case since the start of 2015 which has seen a young child taken to hospital in serious condition due to their diet.
Last summer, the vegan parents of an 11-month-year-old baby treated for severe malnutrition at a hospital were investigated by police. The incident came shortly after an Italian court ordered a vegetarian mother to cook meat for her son at least once a week after the boy's father complained that his son wasn't being fed a proper diet.