Bengaluru: The Karnataka government on Monday issued strict guidelines to regulate the cooking and distribution of temple food or ‘prasadam’, including installing CCTV cameras and restricting unauthorised entry into areas where food is prepared, after at least 14 people died in Chamarajanagar, about 175 kms from Bengaluru, in a case of suspected poisoning.

The circular, issued by the Religious and Endowments or Muzrai department of Karnataka, also states that all food served in temples, including those to be donated by private individuals, should be tested before being distributed to devotees.

The new guidelines were issued three days after several people fell ill after consuming food offered to them at Kicchugathi Maramma temple in Sulvadi village of Hanur Taluk in Chamarajanagar district.

The devotees who went to a stone-laying ceremony at the temple were given tomato rice as food but several people complained of a foul smell. Many people complained but were reassured that the food was fine and there was no problem with it. Several people who consumed the food fell violently ill almost instantly, throwing up and being taken to nearby hospitals.

Senior police officials have confirmed the presence of monocrotophos, a highly toxic pesticide, in the food that was served at the Kicchugathi Maramma temple on Friday. G.T. Deve Gowda, a cabinet minister in the Karnataka government, said the pesticide could have been mixed in the water before the rice was prepared in the temple. The police are conducting inquiries as allegations that the temple management could be involved are being floated by neighbouring villagers.

On last count, there were at least 108 people still being treated in at least 13 hospitals in Chamarajanagar and neighbouring districts.

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