An Indian archbishop has demanded action over a government mistake which has led poor people of Madhya Pradesh to purchase rotten grains from a public distribution system.

The Indian government issued a report cautioning against expired rice grains in fair-price shops, which allow people below the poverty line to have access to cheaper food. The rotten rice was found in Madhya Pradesh's Mandla and Balaghat districts.

"I am shocked to learn that the government system has distributed food grains totally unfit for human consumption. It is distressing that it is done to poor people who are increasingly dependent on the government for their food, especially in these times of pandemic," said Archbishop Leo Cornelio of Bhopal, according to UCA News.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution said 32 samples of food grains were collected for tests. The federal report found that the stocks were procured from recycled and old supplies, and the burlap sacks used to store the rice were at least two years old, UCA News reported.

Through its public distribution system, the government offers rice and wheat at a discounted price to help those suffering from poverty. Some 40 percent of Madhya Pradesh's 71 million population are considered to be underneath the poverty line.

Archbishop Cornelio described it as "a serious case" that will negatively affect the lives of millions of poor people in Madhya Pradesh. He said some poor individuals do not have enough money for a single full meal a day.

"If such substandard food grain is supplied, it will endanger the health of close to half of the state's population," said Cornelio, according to UCA News.

"Such crimes happen because of misplaced priorities. Unless we love and respect human life, this kind of correction cannot be rooted out from society," he added.