Twenty-three children have died in the Indian state of Bihar after eating a contaminated school meal. Another 24 are ill. A doctor at the local hospital said that a chemical used in pesticides was the most likely culprit.
Some of the surviving children are said to have vomited after the first bite of the food, while others spat it out because it was too bitter. The Bihar State Education Minister said the cook had complained about the cooking oil, but the headmistress had insisted it was safe to use. The headmistress is said to have fled.
Angry parents in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman demolished the school kitchen and set fire to police vehicles. The government provides 120 million free school meals for poor children, but the scheme is often criticised for poor hygiene.
One of the worst mass poisonings in history happened in Iraq in the early 1970’s when villagers made bread from imported grain designed for planting, not eating, and treated with a deadly fungicide. Up to 6,000 died.