06:30 20 July 2013
The number of children who died after eating free school lunch in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar has reached at least 20, as of time of writing.
School children aged four to twelve fell ill after consuming a lunch of rice, soybean, and lentils on Tuesday. They were provided free meal by their school at Mashrakh village in the district of Chapra, under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the world’s largest school feeding programme that involves 120 million children.
Medical teams suspected that the food had been contaminated with insecticide.
“We feel that some kind of insecticide was either accidentally or intentionally mixed in the food, but that will be clear through investigations,” said R.K. Singh, medical superintendent at the children's hospital in the state capital Patna.
“We prepared antidotes and treated the children for organophosphorous poisoning.”
It has been reported that the cook had questioned the quality of the oil she was supposed to use but was overruled by the school’s headmistress.
As reported by the BBC, one doctor has said that contaminated vegetable oil may have resulted in the poisoning.
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