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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Contaminated School Lunches Kill at Least 23 Children in India

The costs of "free" food.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Tainted School Lunch Kills at Least 23 Indian Children: Free Food Was Provided Under Government's Midday-Meal Program":

PATNA, India—In a threadbare hospital here, 5-year-old Rashmi Kumari is fighting a powerful poison. "She is a brilliant student," said her uncle as he tried to distract her by asking her to recite poems.

Rashmi is also the only child in her household left alive.

Her cousins, Anshu and Kushboo, died after eating a school lunch now believed to have been contaminated with a pesticide compound, according to a hospital official. The disaster has left at least 23 children dead as of Thursday morning and spotlights the shortcomings in a government school-lunch program intended to feed India's millions of malnourished students.

Initial investigations suggest that organophosphorus, commonly used in farm pesticides, may have been mixed into the rice, beans and potato curry served Tuesday at an elementary school in Gandaman, a village in the impoverished state of Bihar, according to Amarkant Jha Amar, medical superintendent at the hospital.

The students became sick and suffered from vomiting, fainting and foaming at the mouth. More than two dozen victims are still being treated. Mr. Amar said patients are receiving medicine to neutralize the chemical, which is similar to nerve agents such as sarin.

It remains unclear how or where the chemical got into the food. A state-level investigation is under way and the first report is expected Thursday, according to local police and a district magistrate.
Foaming at the mouth? Sarin? What a horrible way to die, and so senselessly tragic.

More, "India’s Problems With Free School Meals."

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