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India Death Toll Set at 22 Kids: Autopsies Found Traces of Insecticide

Update Date: Jul 18, 2013 11:08 AM EDT

Eating lunch is an important meal of the day. In the United States, programs have been working hard on making school lunch options healthier and more nutritious for growing children and teenagers.  Without proper nutrition, children's health and cognitive function could be jeopardized, which is why getting schools around the world to provide a good meal is important. Even though underdeveloped countries have been working on feeding children at school, there are still many difficulties, such as regulation and cleanliness that arise. In India, one of these difficulties led to the death of 22 innocent school children.

According to the autopsies, it was confirmed today that insecticide in the school's lunch was the culprit. The insecticide could have either already been in the produce or accidentally added through a cooking oil. The free midday meal was given to children between the ages of five and 12 on Tuesday in Gandamal village of eastern India in Masrakh block. The meal, which consisted of lentils, rice, soy and potatoes quickly, sickened over dozens of children, as well as the school's cook. After being hospitalized, 22 children were pronounced dead due to poison. The remaining 25 children and the school's chef are still at the hospital although their conditions are believed to be stabilized, according to Patna Medical College hospital superintendent, Amarkant Jha Amar. Amar also revealed that four children remain in the intensive care unit.

"There will be no remnant effects on them. The effects of poisoning will be washed after a certain period of time from the tissues," Amar said according to TIME.

Based on a preliminary investigation, the Bihar state education minister, P.K. Sahi believes that the food served to the children had traces of an organophosphate that was used on the rice and wheat crops in order to prevent insects from ruining them. The rice was then most likely not washed before it was cooked and served. Despite this early investigation, some of the villagers believed that the problem lied in the soy and potatoes side dishes. The villagers stated that children who did not eat the sides but ate the rice and lentils appeared to be unaffected. Regardless of which food source was tainted, this accident reminds people of the poor regulation behind the safety of school meals.

"People must not ever forget that our children died inside the school because of the government's negligence," Rangeela Prasad Yagav said to BBC News. Yagav lost a granddaughter due to the poisoned lunch.

India's first started the midday lunch program as an incentive to get parents to send their children to school. For poorer families where food is scarce, a free meal could be the only incentive parents need to keep their children in school. However, this incidence shows that more work needs to be done to provide these children with food that is safe to eat.

According to BBC News, 200,000 rupees ($3,370) have been offered as compensation to families who lost a loved one. 

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