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After Bihar, midday meals make 100 kids sick in South India

Jul 18, 2013

Just two days after 23 children died in Bihar after being served mid day lunch, several other children fell sick in different states after consuming midday meals.

Over 100 school girls fell sick in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu after consuming free lunch served to them. The food served to them is suspected to have been unfit for eating. The girls are reportedly out of danger.

In another incident, 31 students of a government school in Dhule, Maharashtra were admitted to a hospital after they ate food served as part of the midday meal scheme in their school. The students, from Class 5 to 10, had reportedly developed gastroenteritis after eating the food.

According to a report by a leading news channel, insects and worms have also been found in a midday meal kitchen in a school in Punjab’s Amritsar by inspection authorities and the students of the school have alleged that they often find worms and insects in their lunch. Parents allege that the water used to cook the food is also contaminated with disease-causing agents.

The post-mortem report of the 23 children who died in Bihar confirmed that insecticides were present either in the ingredients or the cooking oil. According to Amarkanth Jha, Hospital Superintendent, Patna Medical College, results of the chemical analysis of the ingredients seized from the school were still pending.

The 23 children and the school cook who is undergoing treatment are unlikely to suffer from any serious after-effects from the tainted food, said Amarkanth, though four of the children were still in the intensive care unit.

“There will be no effects on them after this. The effects of poisoning will be washed after a certain period of time from the tissues,” Amarkanth said.

Quoting a preliminary investigation, Bihar Education Minister P K Sahi suggested that the food served to the children contained an organophosphate used as an insecticide on rice and wheat crops. He said it was believed the rice had not been washed before it was served to the children.

India’s mid day meal scheme is considered to be one of the world’s biggest school nutrition programme. It was first introduced in the 1960s in southern India, where it was seen as an incentive for poor parents to send their children to school.

Since then, the programme is said to have covered some 120 million school children across the country. It’s part of an effort to address concerns about malnutrition, which the government says nearly half of all Indian children suffer from.

The state of midday meal kitchen in many parts of the country reflects a poor image. The food being cooked is highly unhygienic and is unable to suffice the nutritional requirement of the kids.

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