22 Children Die After Eating Tainted Free Lunches
About 22 Indian children are dead and dozens have been hospitalized after consuming a free lunch provided by the school. The meals which consisted of rice, lentils, soybeans, and potatoes were tainted with insecticide, causing fatal or near-fatal injuries for students and staff alike.
The meals were part of a school program that provides one hot meal for lower income Indian students, ages 5-12. An investigation suggested that the food showed traces of organophosphate, an insecticide used on rice and wheat. While unclear how the food was tainted, officials are now speculating that some of the items may have not been washed properly before being served.
After experiencing severe vomiting and stomach pains following their lunch, affected children were rushed to the hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, 22 children have since died and another 25 are in critical condition.
Since the incident, the official in charge of the free meal program has been suspended, and the school headmistress has been charged with criminal negligence. Local villagers and opposition parties also started riots in the area and burnt four police cars.
“Whether it was a case of negligence or was intentional, we will only know once the inquiry has been conducted,” explained state official Abhijit Sinha.
India’s free meal program is considered one of the largest school nutrition programs in the world, serving over 120 million school children. The effort is part of a government program to address malnutrition and lack of education among low income households.