Concentrated pesticide in school meal

2013-07-21 14:09
An Indian child eats her free school lunch at a government run school in Patna, India. (Aftab Alam Siddiqui, AP)

An Indian child eats her free school lunch at a government run school in Patna, India. (Aftab Alam Siddiqui, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Patna - The free school lunch that killed 23 Indian children last week was contaminated with concentrated pesticide which is not widely available, the district magistrate overseeing the police investigation told Reuters on Sunday.

The children fell ill within minutes of eating a meal of rice and potato curry in their one-room school in Bihar state on Tuesday, vomiting and convulsing with stomach cramps.

The deaths sparked protests in Bihar. The lunch was part of India's Mid-Day Meal Scheme that covers 120 million children and aims to tackle malnutrition and encourage school attendance. It had already drawn widespread complaints over food safety.

An initial forensic investigation found that the meal had been prepared with cooking oil that contained monocrotophos, an organophosphorus compound that is used as an agricultural pesticide, Ravindra Kumar, a senior police official, told reporters on Saturday.

The pesticide found in the oil was of a concentration more than five times that used in a commercial version, according to a forensic report.

"It is highly poisonous, it's highly toxic, and, therefore, it has to be diluted when used as commercial pesticides," said district magistrate Abhijit Sinha.

"Typically it has to be diluted five times. So one litre of monocrotophos is mixed with five litres of water."

Sinha said the concentrated form was not widely available and the pesticide was normally sold commercially in the diluted state.

Police said on Friday they suspected the cooking oil used in the meal was kept in a container previously used to store the pesticide. They are still looking for the headmistress of the school, who fled after the deaths.

The World Health Organisation describes monocrotophos as highly hazardous and that handling and application of it should be entrusted only to competently supervised and well-trained applicators.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says all waste and contaminated material associated with the chemical should be considered hazardous waste and destroyed in a special high temperature chemical incinerator facility.

Read more on:    india

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.