India lunch deaths: At least 22 school children dead after eating tainted food during school lunch.

22 Children Die After Eating Tainted School Lunch

22 Children Die After Eating Tainted School Lunch

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July 17 2013 9:04 AM

22 Children Die After Eating Tainted School Lunch

Indian schoolchildren at Jahangirpura Shala Number 2, which is run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, are served their free mid-day meal in Ahmedabad on July 17, 2013. Twenty-two children have died in India's Bihar state after eating a free lunch feared to contain poisonous chemicals at an Indian primary school, officials said July 17, as the tragedy sparked angry street protests.

Photo by Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

This is a difficult one to start your morning with: Officials in India say that at least 22 children are dead and more than two dozen others sick after eating a free school lunch that was most likely tainted with some type of insecticide. It's unclear how exactly the chemicals would have ended up in the meal, but the early speculation is focused on the possibility that the food may not have been properly washed before it was cooked. The Associated Press with the details:

The children, between the ages of 5 and 12, fell ill Tuesday soon after eating lunch in Gandamal village in Masrakh block, 50 miles north of the state capital of Patna. School authorities immediately stopped serving the meal of rice, lentils, soybeans and potatoes as the children started vomiting. ...The lunch, part of a popular national campaign to give at least one daily hot meal to children from poor families, was cooked in the school kitchen.
The children were rushed to a local hospital and later to Patna for treatment, said state official Abhijit Sinha. In addition to the 22 children who died, another 25 children and the school cook were in hospital undergoing treatment, P.K. Sahi, the state education minister. Three children were in serious condition.

Officials are still investigating exactly what happened, but they've already suspended the person in charge of the meal program and registered a case of criminal negligence against the school's headmaster—who reportedly fled as soon as the children began to get sick. The AP has more here, including some background on the free lunch program.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.