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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid