Cooking oil suspected cause in India deaths

Police say country's worst outbreak of mass food poisoning in years may have been caused by contaminated cooking oil.

    Cooking oil suspected cause in India deaths
    The children fell ill within minutes after eating a lunch provided by their school [Reuters]

    Indian police suspect that the country's worst outbreak of mass food poisoning in years was caused by cooking oil, the magistrate overseeing the investigation said.

    "Circumstantial evidence suggests that cooking oil was kept in a container which was previously used to store pesticides or insecticides," Abhijit Sinha, district magistrate of Saran district, told the Reuters news agency on Friday.

    Health officials in the eastern state of Bihar were due to release on Friday autopsy results for many of the 23 schoolchildren who died on Tuesday after vomiting and convulsing with agonising stomach cramps.
    Al Jazeera's Karishma Vyas reports from Bihar State

    "At the moment we cannot say whether it was deliberate or it was pure negligence," Sinha said.

    Officials said on Thursday it appeared from post mortem results that the food was contaminated with a pesticide.

    The children fell ill within minutes after eating a lunch provided by their school in the village of Gandaman in Bihar.

    Meanwhile, police and local officials raided the headmistress's home in Gandaman on Friday while grieving parents attacked the house to protest the deaths of pupils.

    It is not yet clear where the headmistress bought the food for the free meals, cooked at a makeshift kitchen outside the one-room ramshackle school.

    Police said she left the village on Tuesday with her husband, a local businessman who owned a shopping complex of about 40 stores.

    India runs the world's largest school feeding programme, involving 120 million children, and Bihar is one of India's most populated and poorest states.

    Educators see the scheme as a way to increase school attendance, in a country where almost half of all young children are undernourished. But children throughout the country often suffer from food poisoning.

    In 1998, adulterated rapeseed oil killed as many as 60 people in the capital New Delhi. Investigations later revealed that the oil had been mixed with white oil, a petroleum product.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    The War in October: What Happened in 1973?

    The War in October: What Happened in 1973?

    Al Jazeera examines three weeks of war from which both Arabs and Israelis claimed to emerge victorious.