Cuttack: As many as 58 students of Sandhapur Primary School under Barang block here were taken ill after allegedly consuming dalma under mid-day meal (MDM) scheme which had turned ‘toxic’ after a spider fell on it, Thursday.
The children have been admitted to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Post Graduate Institute of Paediatrics (Sishu Bhawan). “Three of the children are critically ill, while others are out of danger and are under observation at the hospital,” Sishu Bhawan superintendent Saroj Kumar Satpathy said.
On being informed, Cuttack Collector Bhabani Shankar Chayani, district Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan project coordinator-cum-district education officer (DEO) Niranjan Behera, Barang block education officer (BEO) Narendra Behera and officials of district Child Welfare Committee rushed to Sishu Bhawan and took stock of the situation there.
According to sources, the Collector has asked the DEO to inquire into the incident and submit a report within a week.
According to the Barang BEO, there are 96 students in the school. “The children were served rice, ‘dalma’ and ‘khatta’ around 1.30pm. However, a Class V student complained of nausea and puked at the spot. Soon after, another student went to check the food container and discovered a spider in the ‘dalma’. A few teachers also spotted the spider in the ‘dalma’. Later, other children, too, complained of headache and nausea. 58 students were rushed to Sishu Bhawan in three phases,” the Barang BEO added.
According to sources, the state government has roped-in a private firm to supply cooked food to the school for MDM.
When asked whether the food sample was checked, the Barang BEO said that usually the headmaster consumes the food before being served to the students. “Thursday, too, headmaster Jogendra Behera took the food first before serving to students. He didn’t complaint about any issue,” the Barang BEO pointed out, adding that other students might have got scared by witnessing the vomiting of a student and subsequent presence of the spider in the food.