Thousands of children across India have refused to eat their free school lunch, fearful of being poisoned.
It follows the death of at least 23 children after eating a contaminated free school meal in the Indian state of Bihar. A local official told Reuters that 25 had died, but the toll couldn’t be confirmed.
The children suffered from vomiting and convulsions from stomach cramps within minutes of eating the meal of rice, lentils and vegetables.
Of those being treated in hospital, 23 are completely out of danger, while one is still in a critical condition. The school cook is also being treated.
Police are now searching for the headmistress of the school in Gandaman village who has disappeared.
The focus of the investigation is on the oil used to cook the meal. Media reports said the oil may have been stored in an old pesticide container.
The free meals are distributed under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the world’s largest school feeding programme involving 120 million children..