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Pesticide found in cooking oil used in Bihar school midday meal

Cooking oil with strains of toxic insecticide compound called organophosphorus was used for making food at a Bihar primary school in Saran district where 23 children died after a free meal on July 18, police said, citing a forensic report yesterday.


Saran villagers prepare to bury three children who died of food poisoning, after consuming a midday meal on July 18. File pic

“Monocrotophos, which is highly toxic, is used in farm insecticides,” said Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) Ravinder Kumar. “The Forensic Science Laboratory’s (FSL) scientists confirmed that the poisonous substance in the oil samples was more than five times the commercial preparation available in the market,” he said.

Amarjeet Sinha, principal secretary, education, earlier said preliminary findings pointed to insecticide poisoning of the oil and vegetables. The post-mortem confirmed presence of a poisonous substance in the potato-soyabean curry that was served to them.

Chandrasekhar Singh, a doctor in a government hospital in Saran, who treated several children said 10 kids, who did not eat the curry, are safe. “As many as 55 of 65 children fell ill after having the curry and some died,” he said.

Parents of several children told officials that their children fell ill due to poisonous vegetable. “Some kids, who consumed only rice and pulses, did not fall ill,” they said.

A government inquiry report has blamed Meena Devi, absconding principal of the government primary school, for the deaths. “There is no trace of her. The administration has decided to attach her property to put pressure on her to come forward,” Saran Superintendent of Police Sujit Kumar said. Meena Devi had forced the cook to use the “toxic” oil despite the latter’s complaint that it had a smell.

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