At least six teenagers died from suspected food poisoning after drinking sour milk at their boarding school in eastern India, an official said today.
Teachers panicked when the students started vomiting on Thursday and took them to a hospital on the outskirts of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, said A.K. Basu, the state chief secretary.
The students, aged 12 and 13, initially refused to drink the unpasteurised milk, complaining to a school administrator that it had soured, Basu said.
But the official, Ram Jaleswar Sahu, encouraged them by drinking some himself. Sahu also became sick and was taken to hospital.
In addition to the six who died, 65 students were sickened. Most were sent home after being cleared by doctors, but 21 remained in a hospital, Basu said.
The milk was provided unpasteurised from a local dairy, and police seized samples of the milk as part of an investigation, Basu said. Unpasteurised, or raw milk – banned in several countries – does not undergo heating aimed at destroying bacteria and other pathogens, but it is commonly sold in India.
Nearly 1,000 people, including the parents and relatives of the school children, took to the streets on Friday and blocked a highway near Ranchi, demanding prosecution of the school management, police said.