More than 300 students were hospitalized Friday after having lunch at a government-run school in the southern city of Bangalore in India, local media reported. The lunch, catered to students as part of a government program, reportedly had a dead lizard inside one of the food containers.
The children, from the Government Urdu Model Primary School, complained of nausea and stomach ache after eating the food. According to The Times of India, about 335 students were sent home after being treated at the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Medical College, while 20 others are still under observation. Doctors reportedly said that the students' condition is stable and they are expected to be released Saturday. Some students told local media that a dead lizard was found in the rice served to them.
“There is no need to worry as the children are doing fine. It may have been a slight infection for a few students. For others it was a psychological effect. Nine students are still in the hospital and under observation,” Dr. V. Krishna Rao, the medical superintendent of the hospital, said, according to Deccan Herald, a local newspaper. He also reportedly said that vomit samples of the students had been sent for examination and the results are expected by Sunday.
Officials at the school reportedly said the food was provided by the International Society for Promotion of Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON. However, the organization denied providing the food, according to local reports.
“We would like to bring to your notice that the reported news is incorrect and defamatory as Iskcon Food Relief Foundation has no kitchen in Bangalore and therefore does not serve food in Bangalore,” ISKCON said, in a statement, according to India Today.
Meanwhile, the Deccan Herald reported that ISKCON’s Akshaya Patra Foundation, a nonprofit which prepares the lunch, claimed that it had delivered the same food to several other schools but did not receive any complaints.
“As of now we are trying to gather information. A food sample will be sent for testing. We serve as many as 1,000 schools. More than 200,000 children in Bangalore eat midday meals served by us. There are many kitchens preparing the food separately for different schools,” Vinay Kumar, general manager of operations at the foundation, reportedly said.
Local police officials reportedly said that they are investigating the case. But it was unclear if the food was contaminated at the place where it was prepared or at the school. The midday meal program provides free lunch to more than 100 million students in state-run schools across the country.
In 2013, at a a school in the state of Bihar in eastern India, 23 children died after consuming free lunch provided as part of the program. Police officials later determined that the food was contaminated from being stored in a used pesticide container.