The stomach-churning sight of a dead mouse in dal interrupted the mid-day meal at a government-aided inter-college in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar on Tuesday, but by the time the staff was ordered to stop serving lunch, many students had already been taken ill.
The meal, meant for students between Class 6 and 8, had been prepared by an NGO called Jan Kalyan Sanstha Committee that is based in Hapur, a town about 90 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar. At least nine children and a teacher fell ill after consuming the food. They were admitted to a nearby hospital and released after an hour.
A student said the rodent was found at the bottom of a vat of yellow Urad dal.
"Yes sir (on being asked by reporters if a mouse had been found in the food)... as we took the dal with a spoon we saw a mouse... it was in the bottom of a container of urad dal," Shivang, a Class 6 student, said, adding the food had also been served to 15 other students.
Speaking to reporters after the incident Ram Sagar Tripathi, a local education official, called the shocking incident an example of "carelessness".
"The Jan Kalyan Sanstha Vikas Committee prepares the food for the mid-day meal scheme. Today... in the dal, there was a mouse. We stopped serving after that. Nine children fell ill and were taken to hospital, but everybody else is fine. There was no problem... it was just carelessness," he said.
Mr Tripathi also confirmed that action would be initiated against the concerned NGO.
In recent days and weeks the UP government has made headlines, for all the wrong reasons, with its mid-day meal scheme.
Last week a video from the state's Sonbhadra district showed a cook at a mid-day meal kitchen mixing a one-litre packet of milk with a bucket of water to feed some 81 students at a local school.
In the video, reportedly taken by a member of the gram panchayat, the cook is seen boiling water in a large aluminum container before adding milk from a one-litre carton. She then stirs the vessel slowly as the mixing is complete.
The cook is seen giving the milk to waiting students, who mill about her with steel glasses in their hands. Turn by turn, they get about half-a-glass of the highly diluted milk.
In September, students of a government school in Mirzapur district, in the eastern part of the state, were filmed sitting on the floor and eating rotis with salt.
The website of the Uttar Pradesh Mid-Day Meal Authority - the overseeing body for these meals in the state - describes an elaborate menu that is supposed to be served to the children at the state-run primary schools. It includes pulses, rice, rotis and vegetables. Fruits and milk are included on certain days, according to the meal chart.
These meals are supposed to provide a minimum of 450 calories to each child every day; this must include at least 12 grams of protein and should be served to every child at least 200 days a year.
According to the state government, it has provided mid-day meals in more than 1.5 lakh primary and middle schools across the state, as of December 2018. More than one crore children are supposed to benefit from the scheme.