At least 20 children have died and another 35 are being treated in hospital in India after eating a contaminated school meal.
The children fell sick after eating their free school lunch of rice and lentils in the village of Marakh in the Saran district in the eastern state of Bihar. The meal was prepared at the school. The poisoning is believed to have been caused by insecticides in the food.
Hundreds of people demonstrated outside a local police station in Marakh, demanding that measures be taken against the school administration.
The local authorities have begun an investigation and say families of the dead will be compensated.
Shyam Rajak, provincial minister of food and civil supplies announced: “The chief minister of Bihar has ordered a probe into the incident. A committee has been set up for the probe. A team of doctors is providing treatment to the hospitalised children. A compensation of 200,000 rupees (2,560 euros) has been announced for the families of the dead children.”
Bihar is one of India’s poorest states and the free mid-day meal, distributed in 29 Indian states, in is one of the largest feeding programmes in the world.
Food poisoning in schools in India is a frequent occurrence because of the poor levels of food hygiene and often the inferior quality of food.