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Jul 18, 2013 at 07:50pm IST

HRD Ministry had warned Bihar about hygiene issues with mid day meals

New Delhi: The Ministry of Human Resource Development had in April 2013 warned the Bihar government over problems faced by the mid day meal scheme in the state. Two reports prepared by independent agencies showed that students and their parents were not happy with the quality of food served at schools in the state.

The reports claimed that the food was cooked and kept in the open and de-worming tablets were not given to students at various schools in Bihar. According to the minutes of the HRD Ministry meeting accessed by CNN-IBN, senior Bihar government officials attended the meeting.

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"We had alerted the Bihar government quite a few months back about shortcomings in its food storage. We had expected that the Bihar government would have acted on the recommendations," HRD Minister Pallam Raju said while admitting that there has been a failure on the part of the Nitish Kumar government in ensuring hygienic mid day meals for students across the state.

"We are setting up a central committee to look into the aspects of quality, hygiene and food storage across the country. We will be reviewing the mid day meal procedure across the country," he added.

ALSO SEE Bihar mid day meal: Insecticide was in the food or oil, says doctor

The HRD Minister said that the central committee will meet from time to time and will also give guidelines to the government on how to improve the scheme. "The central committee will consist of members from all central departments like food, public distribution, health, women and child development, NGO's and civil society," he said.

The post-mortem reports on children, who died after eating a mid day meal in Chhapra in Bihar, confirmed that insecticide was either in the food or cooking oil, a doctor said on Thursday. The toll rose to 23 on Thursday after the death of one more child.

ALSO SEE Government forms panel to look into the quality of mid day meals

Patna Medical College hospital superintendent Amarkant Jha Amar said results of the chemical analysis of the ingredients seized from the school were still pending.

The free mid day meal was served to the children on Tuesday in Gandamal village in Masrakh block, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Patna, the Bihar state capital. The children, aged 5-12, got sick soon after eating rice, lentils, soya and potatoes, and soon 22 of them were dead and dozens were hospitalised.

(With additional information from Associated Press)