08/19/11 A Letter to prof. dr. Kolacek
Children's Hospital Zagreb
Sanja Kolacek, prof. dr.
August 19, 2011
Dear prof. dr. Kolacek,
We address you regarding the recent case of the death of a malnourished ten-month-old baby in Slovenia, which was obviously wrongly connected with the vegan diet by the media, and which has caused them to ask for your statement in the media.
As several times before, media attention has been attracted by individual extreme cases in which parents have not even fed their children according to the vegan diet, and which has lead nutritionists and doctors to criticize vegan, and even vegetarian, diet as inadequate for children, which is unprofessional and harmful.
Although it is clear that feeding a child only fruit, only one kind of plant-based food or nothing but mother's milk after the sixth month is not vegan diet, but starving the child as a consequence of the parents' lack of education or negligence, the public and experts were inclined to call those cases examples of bad consequences of vegan diet for children.
As you have yourself mentioned in the media, the vegan diet cannot cause the child to die or significantly fall behind in weight or development. The fact is that veganism is not a passing trend, and that the number of vegan and vegetarian parents who feed their children a vegan diet is constantly increasing.
Parents often complain to us that they have been discouraged from feeding their children a vegetarian or vegan diet or even attacked by pediatricians and other experts from institutions like your clinic. This causes them to lose trust in experts on children's health because they, with their approach, deny the parents the right to choose the diet for their child, and forces them to educate themselves about the best way to combine plant-based foods to meet their child's nutritive needs.
We think that the growing number of children on the veg(etari)an diet in Croatia, who do not have difficulties developing and are healthy, shows that their parents do not put their children's health at risk, but seek cooperation with experts. Having doctors and other experts discourage parents from feeding their child a vegan diet is definitely not in the interest of children's health and the reputation of health institutions. They should provide them with objective and competent information, in order to enable them to provide their children with a nutritively balanced vegan diet.
In our earlier communication you have stated that nutritionism has not developed in Croatia, which is why we emphasize the importance of educating nutririonists and experts who deal with the health of children on a vegan diet. Animal Friends tries to help vegetarians and vegans to come by quality sources on diet for all stages of life. But the solution is in the progress of nutritionism in Croatia.
We realize that educating experts is a process which demands certain time and sometimes does not keep up with the development of awareness about different types of diet. However, considering the unstoppable increase in the number of adults and children on the vegan diet, we think that experts should play a key role in educating about a balanced vegan diet, creating trust with the parents and leaving the impression of being well-informed on all types of diet.
Nutritionist, pediatricians and doctors should stop looking at parents who want to enable their children to grow up healthy through the vegan diet as freaks, alternative, fanatics and irresponsible persons. Irresponsible parents are those who neglect the diet and health of their children, regardless of their dietary choice. Therefore we ask for your and your colleagues' cooperation and help for parents who ask for reliable information on vegan diet for their children.
In addition to this letter, we are sending you the reaction we have sent to the media regarding the death of the ten-month-old boy in Slovenia, a text about vegans in Croatia and the latest and amended study by the American Dietitians Association and Nutritionist of Canada from 2009.
We are at your disposal for all questions, proposals and scientific literature, and we look forward to the possibility of cooperation.