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Children Die In India After Consuming Free School Lunch

23 children have died and more sickened after consuming tainted school lunch in the Indian state of Bihar.


Photo: Pratham Books (Flickr)

Many children in the Indian state of Bihar depend on school lunches for food.

In India, 23 children had died as of Thursday night due to poisoning from their state-sponsored school lunch. The tragedy took place in a rural school in Bihar, the nation’s second poorest state.

Tragedy At School

The victims — ages 5 to 12 — fell ill almost immediately after consuming food tainted with an organophosphate commonly found in insecticides.

After complaining of a bad taste in the food, children started to faint, and then many were hospitalized.

School cooks thought discolored cooking oil could be to blame. The principal, who allegedly ordered the cooks to use the food even though they argued it was suspect, fled after the children fell ill.

Angry citizens of Saran, the town where the school is located, took to the streets in protest, smashing police and other vehicles. It’s unclear if meals were deliberately tainted or not.

Children’s Health

Nearly half of all young children suffer malnutrition in India. The free school lunch program was designed to boost school enrollment and to guarantee that children get at least one hot meal a day.

The program seeks to offer 11 pounds of cheap grain every month to nearly 800 million people, but the infrastructure to carry out such a massive undertaking is lacking.

One result of this is that food isn’t always properly inspected, and some is left to rot.

Parliament will decide whether or not to continue the measures August 5.

Read More:

  • India school tragedy raises questions for Gandhi’s food plan (Reuters)
  • Cook warned principal about school lunch in India (USA TODAY)
  • School Tragedy Puts Focus On Poor Health Of India’s Children (NPR)
  • Angry protests in India as school meal kills 22 (AFP)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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