Video: Tainted school meal kills 3 in Peru

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/22/2011 6:51:21 AM ET 2011-09-22T10:51:21

Food donated for a nutrition program became contaminated with pesticides in an Andean hamlet, poisoning 89 children and five adults, Peru's health ministry said. Three of the children died.

The ministry said the National Food Assistance Program distributed the food at a school in Redondo. The hamlet is 310 miles northwest of Lima.

Officials said the meal of rice and fish was accidentally contaminated while it was being prepared Tuesday.

The three children who died were between six and 10 years old, the BBC reported. One of their mothers said they showed signs of having been poisoned.

"I think it was poison because all the kids are purple, from all parts of the school," said the mother, according to the BBC. She was not named.

"My little boy has died. My nine-year-old boy, Miguel Angel, has died," she said.

Police Capt. Aurelio Huaman said Wednesday that prosecutors were investigating what happened.

The BBC reported that Peruvian health official Miguel Zumaeta said the children appeared to have suffered "a carbonates intoxication, which means rat poison."

A similar case occurred in 1999 at a Peruvian town near Cuzco. Food there also was contaminated with pesticides and killed 24 children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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