Fifteen girls of a school in Howrah’s Domjur fell sick on Wednesday afternoon after they allegedly mixed detergent powder with their mid-day meal mistaking it for salt.
The students vomited and complained of abdominal pain. They were admitted to a local primary health centre where doctors said their condition was stable. The parents of the sick children could not be contacted.
The students of Baluhati Girls’ High School were served vegetables, to which some wanted to add salt. They ran into the school’s kitchen where they picked up a box containing a white substance, which they thought was salt.
“The box contained detergent powder. The students mixed the powder with rice and vegetables. After taking a few mouthfuls, they started having problems,” said Sharmi Das, the headmistress of the school.
Soon some of them — all 15 sick students are from classes VI to VIII — started to vomit. It was then that the school authorities, cooks and some other students realised that those who fell sick had mixed detergent with their food.
The school authorities alerted the families of the students who complained of nausea and stomach ache.
The students were taken to Domjur Primary Health Centre.
Doctors said consuming detergent could cause gastroenteritis. Taking it in large amounts can make a person fall critically ill.
“Detergent contains harmful chemicals and if consumed, a person will start vomiting and can suffer from gastroenteritis,” said critical care expert Subrata Maitra.
According to officials of the school, a self-help group run by six women cook the mid-day meal.
Though there are around 750 students in the school, about 400 ate the mid-day meal on Wednesday.
A school education department official said students should not be allowed in the kitchen. “A teacher from the school is supposed to be present when students take the meal. The supervisor is also supposed to taste the food to verify whether it is of good quality,” said the official.