Skip to main content

Pesticides found in deadly school lunch in India

By Harmeet Shah Singh and Tom Watkins, CNN
July 22, 2013 -- Updated 0103 GMT (0903 HKT)
A woman rests with her child at a ward housing the poisoned schoolchildren at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Wednesday, July 17. At least 22 schoolchildren died in northeastern India after eating free school lunches that contained an insecticide commonly used in agriculture. Officials are investigating whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate. A woman rests with her child at a ward housing the poisoned schoolchildren at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Wednesday, July 17. At least 22 schoolchildren died in northeastern India after eating free school lunches that contained an insecticide commonly used in agriculture. Officials are investigating whether the poisoning was accidental or deliberate.
HIDE CAPTION
Deadly school lunch in India
Deadly school lunch in India
Deadly school lunch in India
Deadly school lunch in India
Deadly school lunch in India
Deadly school lunch in India
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Monocrotophos is toxic to humans
  • It has been banned in the United States since 1988
  • Nearly half of Indian children are malnourished

Patna, India (CNN) -- Pesticides have been found in the food and oil used in a free school lunch that killed 23 students and sickened 25 others on Tuesday in northern India's Bihar state, police said Saturday.

Forensic scientists found monocrotophos, an organophosphorus compound used as an insecticide, "in the samples of oil from the container, food remains on the platter and mixture of rice with vegetables in an aluminum utensil," Assistant Director General Ravinder Kumar told reporters in Patna.

Inside an Indian school kitchen
Free lunches halted at Indian schools
Indian village devastated by deaths

Monocrotophos, which is used for agricultural purposes, is toxic to humans.

An administrative inquiry has pointed to negligence by the school headmistress in supervising food preparation for the children, Bihar state's midday meal director R. Lakshamanan told CNN on Friday.

The cook, Manju Devi, was hospitalized after eating the food she prepared, doctors said.

Devi told police that the headmistress, Meena Kumari, did not heed her warning that the mustard oil used to prepare Tuesday's lunch looked and smelled bad and instead insisted that she continue preparing the meal, Lakshmanan said, citing the inquiry report.

Police told CNN that investigators were trying to find Kumari to question her.

Confusion, grief and despair in India's school poisoning village

The investigation found compromised hygiene and sanitation in the school, which was running from a single-room makeshift building, he added.

Experts have said the deaths underscore the problem of food safety in the country and have prompted discussion on how to improve national school food programs amid news that authorities had warned months ago of safety problems with Bihar's school meal program.

On Friday, authorities in Bihar -- which is one of India's poorest states -- announced that a committee would be formed to improve food preparation in rural schools. Lakshamanan said village communities would help monitor standards for school meals.

The Bihar students, who were ages 5 to 12, started vomiting soon after their first bite of lunch; some fainted, authorities said.

According to the Indian government, nearly half of India's children are malnourished. Since a Supreme Court decision in 2001, government schools in India have been required to provide free meals to students younger than 13.

CNN's Harmeet Singh reported this story from Putna and Tom Watkins wrote it from Atlanta

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
For the first time in 24 years, Germany has lifted the World Cup after beating Argentina 1-0 in extra time.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
Do you know your gurkentruppe from your bananenflanken? CNN helps.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
Police moved in just one hour before Rui Chenggang was due to appear on air, leaving his anchor chair empty.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0927 GMT (1727 HKT)
A salvage team will attempt to float the ill-fated Costa Concordia again. CNN's Erin McLaughlin reports.
July 13, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1029 GMT (1829 HKT)
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0732 GMT (1532 HKT)
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 0444 GMT (1244 HKT)
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT