Nearly 100 Indian schoolchildren were hospitalised with suspected food poisoning Thursday after eating a free midday meal at a government-run school near Mumbai, police said, adding that some were in a critical condition.
"Ninety-seven have been admitted to hospital, a few of them are critical. They started vomiting after eating their midday meal," Shrikrishna Kokate, deputy police chief of Palghar district in the western state of Maharashtra, told AFP.
"We have sent teams to the school to take samples. It looks to be a case of food poisoning," Kokate said, adding that the pupils are aged between six and 14.
The Indian government's midday meal programme is the world's largest, feeding 120 million children daily and for many it is their only substantial daily meal.
But the scheme is hampered by corruption and inefficiency.
Students often fall sick after eating contaminated and poorly prepared food, and in 2013 about two dozen children died in an impoverished district of Bihar after they ate a meal laced with pesticide.