Latin America & Caribbean

Poisoned school lunch kills Peru children

Sick child arrives at hospital
Image caption Children who have fallen sick have been taken to hospital in Cajabamba

Three children have died and more than 50 others are seriously ill in Peru after eating a school meal contaminated with pesticide, officials say.

The children were being fed by a government nutrition programme for the poor, at a remote mountain village in the north of the country.

It is thought the meal of rice and fish was prepared in a container which may have previously held rat poison.

At least three adults have also been taken ill.

The mass poisoning happened in the village of Redondo in the Cajamarca region, about 750km (470 miles) north of the capital, Lima.

The three dead were between six and 10 years old.

The food had been donated by the National Food Assistance Programme, which gives food to schools in the poorest parts of the country.

The mother of one of the children who died 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, who was not named.

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

Peruvian health official Miguel Zumaeta said the incident "looks like it was a carbonates intoxication, which means rat poison".

Prosecutors and health ministry officials are investigating how the meal became tainted.

In a similar case in 1999, 24 children died in a village near Cusco in southern Peru after eating food contaminated by pesticide.

More on this story