India School Meal Kills 25 Children: Was Insecticide Poisoning Negligence Or Criminal Intent? [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on July 17, 2013 2:57 PM EDT

India School Meal
A tainted India school meal kills 25 children in a school of Gandaman village. Authorities determine the meals had fatal levels of insecticide. (Photo: Reuters)

An India school meal contamination has caused children to fall ill from food poisoning on Tuesday. The meals are part of a mid-day meal program to give poor Indian students at least one lunch a day. Each year, the central government distributes 2.5 million tons of grain to about 600,000 schools for the children.

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Alarmingly, the hot meals, which were cooked in the kitchen of a Gandamal village school on Tuesday, are tainted. Food poisoning from the India school meal killed 25 children and left dozens hospitalized. The children range from 5 to 12 years old.

Gandamal village is located 50 miles north of the state capital of Patna. According to officials, the India school meal was served during lunch time and featured rice, lentils, soybeans and potatoes. School authorities immediately stopped serving the meal when children started vomiting. Unfortunately, doctors in Patna fear the death toll could rise, as a number of children remain in critical condition.

A total of 25 children are confirmed dead while another 22 children, as well as the school cook, are currently undergoing treatment at a Patna hospital. Some students are in critical condition.

"The oil used to cook the vegetables was foul-smelling. We suspect the poisoning was caused by insecticides such as organic phosphorous," Amarjeet Sinha, Bihar's education secretary, said.

An extremely toxic insecticide was detected in the meals. Specifically, state education minister P.K. Sahi revealed that preliminary investigation suggests that traces of organophosphate, used as insecticide on rice and wheat crops, were the cause of the deaths and illnesses. However, it is not immediately clear how the insecticides were found in the food intended for the students. According to an official, it is possible that the food was not properly washed before serving.

Indian authorities suspended an official in charge of the mid-day meal program and also charged the school headmaster with criminal negligence. The headmaster fled the school when the children fell ill.

Investigations are ongoing as authorities determine whether the India school meal poisoning that killed 25 children was a case of negligence or criminal intent.

A tragic incident that has caused incredible rage and grief in the small community, angry villagers joined members of local opposition parties to overturn and burn four police vehicles.

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