Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) for severe acute malnutrition treatment


Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) afflicts about 20 million children worldwide, with 8 million cases in India alone. Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), the remedy recommended by UNICEF for the community-based treatment of this condition, is an energy-dense paste consisting of milk powder, vegetable oil, sugar, peanut butter, and powdered vitamins and minerals. Due to the relatively high cost, poor palatability, and a dry and oily mouthfeel, the use of RUTF in India is very limited.

The aim of this project is to develop a new form of RUTF with its taste tailored to address Indian children’s needs. Our formulation is a milk-based emulsion fortified with sugar, vegetable oil, and finely-ground nuts, chickpeas or dal, plus appropriate minerals and vitamins. We have developed two different methods to prepare it with locally-sourced ingredients for densely and sparsely populated areas, respectively. While the direct emulsification method gives the lowest cost for communities with electricity supply, a powdered form of this new RUTF has also been developed to cater the needs of rural areas where electricity and frequent delivery services are not available.

During the last quarter, we successfully achieved the scale-up of the powderization process using a pilot scale spray dryer. The RUTF was also tested to determine the post-powderization composition and microbial activities. Currently, we are working to determine the shelf life. We are also looking for local doctors and pediatrics to do control studies to test the effectiveness of the RUTF. Further scale up into mass-manufacturing will be carried out in the next stage.

This is a joint research project with our sister-centre at IIT Bombay.

Photo credit: USAID

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Ready-to-use therapeutic food for severe acute malnutrition treatment