Confirming the deaths, principal secretary, education, Amarjeet Sinha said he suspected the deaths occurred by organo phosphorous poisoning caused due to traces of insecticides.
Till late night Tuesday, District Magistrate Abhijit Sinha said 10 children died after the mid-day meal at Dharamsati primary school in Masrakh in Saran, about 100 km from here. But later nine more children died. More than 60 children fell ill too.
Over two dozen sick children have been brought to the Patna Medical College and Hospital after their condition deteriorated. "Ten children are still critical," a hospital official said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed shock over the incident and announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to the kin of each of the dead school children.
In Bihar, widespread corruption is reported in the mid-day meal scheme and government guidelines on food quality are ignored.
In the past, dead lizards, frogs, insects and a rat were found in food cooked for the mid-day meal, angering students and parents.