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Photograph: freeimages.com/Marcelo Gerpe

A confectioner in Pakistan was thought to have mixed pesticide by mistake into a batch of sweets, leaving 26 people dead and dozens more critically ill, police said Tuesday.

The order for laddo, balls of fried sweet dough popular across South Asia, was placed by a resident to celebrate the birth of his grandson in a village in the eastern province of Punjab, police told dpa.

Pesticides were being kept in the sweet-maker's kitchen while the retailer next door was being renovated.

A worker apparently mistook a can of liquid pesticide for flavouring, police said, citing the initial findings of the investigation.

The can resembled familiar ingredients, and was only labelled in English, police official Wasim Akbar told dpa.

The results of the forensic tests of the deceased and the pastries were still pending.

Children and women were among the dead in Fateh Poor, in the province's Layyah region, Akbar said.

The sweets were distributed last week by local resident Umar Hayat to his relatives and friends, Akbar said.

The first fatalities occurred soon after, and the death toll kept rising as the village lacks health facilities and the nearest clinic with a stomach pump is five hours away, fellow resident Arshad Bhutta said.

The provincial government on Tuesday sent a team of doctors and medics to treat over 100 people still ill, Bhutta said.

Three people have been arrested, Akbar said.

Pakistan has poor food safety and hygiene standards and they are often not enforced.

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