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22 children die in India after eating school meal

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At least twenty two children, aged between five and twelve, have died after eating free meals at a primary school in eastern India.

At least another thirty five children remain in hospital in the capital, with ten of them remaining in a critical condition. The cook and her two children have also died.

It has been confirmed that the children fell ill after eating a lunch of rice and lentils. The lunches are hugely popular with poor families and educators see the meals as a way of increasing school attendance and stemming malnourishment. The police have seized all of the ingredients used.

R K Singh, medical superintendent at the children's hospital in Patna, said: "We feel that some kind of insecticide was either accidentally or intentionally mixed in the food, but that will be clear through investigations. Antidotes have been prepared and the children have been treated for organic phosphorous poisoning."

Authorities have suspended a food inspector and registered a case of criminal negligence against the head teacher at the school.

Bihar state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has also ordered an inquiry, announced that families of the dead children will be offered financial compensation of 200,000 rupees (£2,200).

Twenty of the children who died were buried near the school on Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of angry residents have taken to the streets protesting and demanding stern action against government officials responsible for this shocking incident. Locals believe that there was a delay in getting medical help to the children, contributing to the high death toll.

Sadly, this is not the first incident where children have become ill after eating school meals. More than one hundred and thirty students were taken to hospital in the western city of Pune in 2012 after eating lunch at a school. A probe revealed that the food served to them was contaminated with e.coli bacteria.

By Tara Lever