25 students were killed, and dozens poisoned, after eating a free lunch provided by a school in eastern India. Doctors who are treating the children believe that a lethal mix of insecticides in the rice and lentil meal are to blame. Investigators have still not concluded whether the devastating poisoning was deliberate, but the source of the tragedy was found to be cooking oil stored in a container once used for insecticides.

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On Tuesday, the tainted meal was prepared on site, in the kitchen school’s cafeteria. Children immediately began getting sick as lunch was served, prompting the school officials to cease serving when they began vomiting uncontrollably. The affected children were then rushed to medical care, sadly with at least twenty five of them losing their lives. Many still remain in the hospital with their fate unknown, but are being treated for pesticide poisoning.

The lentils and rice were part of India’s free lunch program,  which helps to provide nutrition to 120 million students across the country, sometimes accounting for the only meal they eat each day, and driving up school attendance. But although the free lunch program does a world of good, rumors consistently fly about corruption within it. In this case, according to Reuters, the school’s cook had complained of the look and smell of the cooking oil used to make the tainted meal, but was pushed by the headmistress to continue cooking anyway. The cook herself tried the tainted food and became ill, while the headmistress fled the scene after the tragedy.

While the motive of the poisoning is still under investigation as an accident or purposeful attack,  the area also frequently uses dangerous pesticides to treat both rice and wheat crops, which could cause serious harm if eaten.

Via Take Part

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