A Swedish couple have been jailed for three months after putting their 18-month-old daughter on a vegan diet so restrictive she almost died.
Doctors in Gothenburg said the toddler was close to death and weighed around half the normal weight for her age when she was brought unconscious to a children’s hospital.
Her parents had fed her a diet of breast milk, fruit, vegetables and brown rice, which left her dangerously short of essential nutrients.
Asked whether she had been given any vitamins or supplements to make up for the deficiency, her father replied: “No, no drops or anything like that. She got sunshine, laughter and hugs,” the Times reported.
The couple, who have not been identified, took their daughter to the accident and emergency department at Queen Silvia’s hospital, Gothenburg, in mid-February, claiming she was suffering from a stomach bug.
However, hospital staff found that she weighed as much as a typical six-month-old girl, and said she was so malnourished they had to consult colleagues who had worked with starving children in Africa.
Her parents were charged with gross negligence leading to bodily harm, but denied any wrongdoing. Her father told the district court in Gothenburg they had put her on a vegan regime to protect her from the “poisons” in artificial foods.
“I didn’t want to give her cheese. The body transforms it into morphine. Our whole intention has been to avoid turning her into a person who is driven by her addictions,” he said.
The court ruled that the couple should pay 60,000 krona (£5,000) in damages to their daughter, insisting that a child’s basic needs should not be overpowered by its parents’ lifestyle choices.
The judge, Per Norden, concluded that the parents had not sought to harm their child but expressed surprise at their “remarkable” views, including the mother’s belief that people could train themselves to survive for long periods without food or water.
The girl, who was put in temporary foster care, is said to have recovered and is now fed porridge, meat and fish to help her grow. It is unclear whether she has suffered any long-term health effects.