A free lunch for villagers in southern Myanmar turned sour after it landed more than a third of the rural community in hospital with food poisoning, local officials said this morning.

Hundreds of villagers from Eain Ta Lone, west of Yangon, fell ill after eating fish stew served at a Buddhist ceremony to celebrate the ordination of local novices.

The entire 1,000-person village was taken to the nearest hospital, where 367 were admitted for treatment, said charity worker Wai Lin Aung, who helped to transport the villagers. 

Many were vomiting and some described aches and pains all over their body, he added.

The sick returned home later in the day and were recovering, Myaung Mya township chief administrator Aung Kyaw Zaya told AFP.

"They are all back in the village now. We are monitoring the whole village to see if there are any other health problems." 

Myanmar has a poor food safety record and visitors to the country often complain of food poisoning.