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Pesticide-tainted temple food kills at least 15 in India

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NEW DELHI: A toxic pesticide that the United Nations health agency wanted India to ban nearly a decade ago contaminated food that killed at least 15 people at a temple last week, the police said on Tuesday.

More than 100 people had to go to hospital after devotees consumed portions of tomato rice blessed at the Hindu temple in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

A senior police officer told Reuters laboratory tests showed the presence of monocrotophos - a pesticide that attacks the nerves - in food and vomit samples.

"We are trying to find out how the food got contaminated and not ruling out foul play. We have detained a few people and are enquiring further," said Chamrajnagar district police superintendent Dharmender Kumar Meena, without specifying the number of arrests.

The same pesticide was responsible for the death of 23 schoolchildren in the eastern state of Bihar in 2013, one of India's worst mass poisonings.

That was caused by cooking oil kept in a container previously used to store monocrotophos.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), swallowing just 120mg of monocrotophos - the weight of about five grains of rice - can be fatal.

In a 2009 report, the WHO urged India to ban the pesticide, as the US, European Union and various other Asian nations have done. Its import is illegal in at least 46 countries. - REUTERS

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