Indian police arrest school principal in food poisoning case

Wednesday 24 July 2013 22.49
Dozens of children were taken to hospital in Bihar state
Dozens of children were taken to hospital in Bihar state

Indian police have arrested the principal of a school where 23 children died after eating a meal laced with pesticide in one of India's deadliest food poisoning outbreaks in years.

The woman, who had been missing for more than a week, was detained while on her way to court to surrender, a local police superintendent said.

The children fell ill within minutes of eating a meal of rice and soybean-potato curry in their one-room school on 16 July, vomiting and convulsing with stomach cramps.

Many died, some on the floor of a hospital where they went for treatment, within hours of consuming the food.

Forensic tests showed the meal was contaminated with monocrotophos, a lethal pesticide banned in many countries.

Police said the headmistress is key to solving the mystery of how the pesticide ended up in the food.

They have been searching for the woman since she fled the district where the school is located.

The police superintendent said she had been hiding in the district.

The free school lunch was part of India's midday meal scheme that covers 120 million children and aims to fight malnutrition and encourage school attendance.

The programme had already drawn widespread complaints over food safety.

Keywords: india, bihar