News / Asia

Police Suspect Cooking Oil in India Poisoning Case

Indian children who fell ill after eating the daily free lunch at a rural Indian school undergo treatment at a hospital in Patna, India, July 18, 2013.
Indian children who fell ill after eating the daily free lunch at a rural Indian school undergo treatment at a hospital in Patna, India, July 18, 2013.
Reuters
Indian police suspect that the country's worst outbreak of mass food poisoning in years was caused by cooking oil that had been kept in a container previously used to store pesticide, the magistrate overseeing the investigation said on Friday.
 
Health officials in the eastern state of Bihar were due on Friday to release autopsy results for many of the 23 schoolchildren who died on Tuesday after vomiting and convulsing with agonizing stomach cramps.
 
The children fell ill within minutes after eating a lunch provided by their school in the village of Gandaman. The free meals are part of a national scheme aimed at tackling malnutrition and encouraging children to attend school.
 
“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, said by telephone. Gandaman is in Saran district.
 
“At the moment we cannot say whether it was deliberate or it was pure negligence,” he said, adding that police were searching for the headmistress of the school.
 
He said forensic tests were being conducted on the mustard oil container, uneaten food and utensils to determine the cause of the poisoning.
 
Reuters reporters saw police and local officials raid the headmistress's home in Gandaman on Friday while residents crowded outside.
 
Headmistress sought
 
One of the officials said it was the second such search of the house. In the first raid, police removed a 2-liter (68 U.S. fluid ounce) plastic container of mustard oil, a sack of rice, a bag of lentils, salt and spices. He would not say what more they were looking for on Friday.
 
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.
 
At the local police station, some of the pots and pans from the school kitchen were piled in a corner.
 
An empty bottle of mustard oil lay on top. A local policeman, Ashok Kumar, said the headmistress had decanted oil from the 2-liter container into the bottle for daily use in the kitchen as there was no storage space at the school.
 
Doctors treating some two dozen children at the main hospital in Patna, the capital of Bihar, have said they suspect the children were poisoned by organophosphorous, a compound used in pesticide.
 
“The minute the children were brought in, we smelled this foul odor of organophosphorus,” said Dr. Vinod Mishra.
 
The children fell ill, along with the cook, after eating a meal of rice and soybean-potato curry.
 
Although there have been widespread complaints of food quality in the Mid-Day Meal Scheme in India, the world's largest school feeding program, cases of mass food poisoning are rare.
 
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.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs