At least 34 students of an Odisha government-run primary school were hospitalised after they consumed a midday meal provided at the school, PTI reported. Officials said dead caterpillars were found in the curry given to the students at Kendrapara’s Arteswar upper primary school.

The students, who complained of vomiting and upset stomachs after they consumed the meal, were treated at the Derabish community health centre before being taken to the Kendrapara district headquarters hospital, officials said. Headmistress Jayanti Panda said, “The food was thrown away in the backyard of the school.”

Officials said that while most of the students were discharged, three pupils have been kept under observation at the hospital. Chief District Medical Officer Niranjan Swain said, “The food served to the students was either stale or unfit for human consumption.”

District education officer Sangram Sahoo said an investigation was underway. Sahoo said, “Those found responsible for serving substandard contaminated food will be taken to task.”

The lack of staff has impacted the implementation of the midday meal scheme in Kendrapura, the news agency reported. The teachers were forced to prepare the meals. PTI quoted a teacher, who said, “Since a meagre amount is being paid to the cooks, teachers in many schools often have to cook. One can imagine the scenario in single teacher schools. There are nearly 75 such schools in the district.”

Several reports of students falling ill after consuming the midday meal have surfaced during the last year. Under the centrally-sponsored midday meal scheme, one hot cooked meal is served every day to children studying in Class 1to 8 of government and government-aided schools.