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Free school meals kill Indian children / May be related to not washing the pesticides off the food

At least 20 dead and dozens taken to hospital after eating midday meal at primary school in village of Masrakh

  •   Associated Press in Patna
  •,              Wednesday 17 July 2013 01.09 EDT
Children eat school meals at a New Delhi

Children eat school meals at a New Delhi. The deaths took place at a school in the village of Masrakh, eastern India. Photograph: Tsering Topgyal/AP

At least 20 children have died and more are sick after eating free meals at a primary school in eastern India.

Bihar state official Amarjit Sinha said another 27 children and the school cook had been hospitalised in Patna, the state capital. Ten of them were in serious condition. The children were aged eight to 11.

They fell ill soon after eating meals in the school on Tuesday in Masrakh, a village 50 miles (80km) north of Patna.

The food had been cooked in the school kitchen. Staff stopped serving the meal as children began vomiting.

PK Sahi, the state education minister, said a preliminary investigation suggested the food had traces of an organophosphate used as an insecticide on rice and wheat crops. It was thought the food might not have been washed before it was served at the school.

Authorities suspended a food inspector and registered a case of criminal negligence against the school headmaster.  The Bihar state chief minister, Nitish Kumar, ordered an inquiry.

The Indian broadcaster NDTV said compensation was being paid to the dead childrens’ parents.

Many state governments in India have launched midday meal programmes to address malnutrition, the major health concern among the country’s poorest children.

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