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Pesticide-Contaminated Lunch Kills 22 Children in India, Protests Spark

Elizabeth Renter
July 17th, 2013
Updated 05/07/2014 at 7:39 pm
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school meal india 263x174 Pesticide Contaminated Lunch Kills 22 Children in India, Protests Spark

Image from Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Twenty-two children are dead so far in the village of Dharmasati Gandaman, in India’s Bihar state. The cause is not some communicable disease or strange virus, but their school lunch. According to the BBC, the children all ate from the school’s free mid-day meal. Forty-seven fell ill and 28 had been taken to area hospitals.

The free-lunch program is designed to both combat hunger and increase school attendance in the poverty-stricken village. It’s referred to as the Mid-Day Meal and was started in 1925. But, critics say, it’s plagued by poor hygiene.

Following the deaths, protests broke out. Parents joined with protestors and at least four police vehicles were set on fire.

“The doctors who have attended are of the tentative opinion that the smell coming out of the bodies of the children suggests that the food contained organo-phosphorus, which is a poisonous substance,” said PK Shahi, the state education minister in a statement. “Now the investigators have to find out whether the organo-phosphorus was accidental or there was some kind of deliberate mischief.”

Organophosphorus is a type of insecticide. According to, they are also used in chemical warfare and commonly associated with suicide in the area. Versions, like sarin, have been developed into nerve gases and are used in chemical attacks.

Interestingly, nearly all people are exposed to organophosphorus (OP) pesticides in their daily diet. Although one study published in Environmental Health Perspectives indicated organic produce could reduce exposure, it is one of those toxins that the EPA has set “acceptable limits” on. Obviously, the schoolchildren were delivered a far higher dosage than what would be deemed “acceptable” in a normal diet.

A senior education official surmises the contamination may have come from vegetables or rice in the lunch. A doctor treating some of the children says it could have been vegetable oil. In other words, no one quite knows.

Bihar is one of the poorest and simultaneously most-populated states in the country. The Mid-Day Meal program is the largest of its kind, serving about 120 million children.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first case of illness or food-poisoning to come from the program.

“The food is not being checked before it is being served,” said Shahi. “The scale at which the operation is carried out, serving food to 20 million children every day and that too in the remotest village schools, checking food before it is served—that itself is a challenge.

From around the web:

  • issyco

    It’s a crime that innocent children have to die to expose Monsanto and the other pesticide companies for their blase attitude about using these poisonous chemicals in our food crops! Everyone that knew how dangerous these pesticides are should be fed these same pesticide-laced foods until they succumb. It’s a shame that lives don’t matter to them.

  • Daryl Bender

    Look at the way the US media is reporting this as a food poisoning or food born illness NOT pesticide poisoning. THAT STINKS

  • truthdoesn'tlie

    I love Indian people. It breaks my heart to see these precious little souls gone or in terrible pain. It is also particularly grievous that it happened to the poor who are subjected to any and everything. Why???Just because they don't have MONEY? People must realize that the legacy we leave is the one that we take with us when we leave this Earth. What a loss for this world. When are we going to realize that all souls are precious and some of the MOST precious are not the richest on earth! Some of the WORST and poorest in spirit people I've ever met are the ones who just live for their money and hoard it. Praying, praying, praying for these innocent children and their loving parents!

  • truthintel

    Sending hope and prayers to all the affected families. So sad. How can we help those directly affected?

  • truthintel

    Not checking the temp of food can kill those it serves, add to that the pesticides, the poorly managed program that I'm sure had good intent at the start but now overwhelming in proportion to "safety checkers." Like the gov't cares, I'm sure they got their pesticides from Monsanto like everybody else, and that is ONE company that LIKES DEAD people. Grow your own food and garden for the community. Feed yourself and feed your family and share surplus with neighbors and friends. That is the key to peace and happiness and a joyous full belly for all!

  • karl

    Monsanto will be remembered in the same light as IG Farben in the end

  • robert h siddell jr

    My dad was a farmer and one day poured double the amount of insecticide into the sprayer. I said you will hurt somebody; he said "I'm gonna kill them damn bugs". No one checks for this and I'm sure foreign farmers are much worse.

  • lulu

    Please read an accurate account of the case on the New York TImes.

    • Dawn

      Right!…The New York Times always tells the truth. :/

  • Faye

    This is just awful .. It seems I’ve long since stop believing that “all good things ae free” when I realized that this world has been overtaken and enforced by negative principalities which appears to have reversed even the powers and principalities governing the very atmosphere … this had definitely been a world governed by the negative satanic elite … but thank the High Heavens of the Positive Light the CHANGE is in process .. these precious children have paid an great price revealing the evils that governing hands has allowed in harming a people loved by their CREATOR … my belief is that they now set in a higher reality far better than the one they lived, yet I pray for those who loved these children and will miss them ..

  • Ted

    If they had rice where did it come from big problem with rice these days it's really bad

  • Suzanne

    I believe GMO food is deadly but I wonder how healthy these children were to begin with.

    • Anonymous

      I know it is Ban GMO

    • @sgt3

      I'm sure they weren't healthy…which made them that much more vulnerable! What a sin!!!

  • Jan Dear

    Hi Elizabeth,
    I enjoy your articles very much, as I do the ones posted by others by NS.
    I read about this sad news on the BBC or our CBC here in Canada early this morning and was wondering if you at NS were aware of it. I posted a comment somewhere, something like "I wonder if Monsanto is behind this.' !!!! Jan

    • organicgirl

      hahaha i thought can anyone say Bill Gates

      • @sgt3

        Absolutely! Gates has been holding hands with government since day one.

  • Sarah

    Really sad to read that this happened. I hope that the families will be well off.

    • Ect

      right Sarah, and hope springs eternal. These families live in a poverty stricken village and have just lost their children. These families have been made forlorn, and your right it is really sad.