Posts Tagged ‘RUTF’

Tackling Malnutrition, One Step at a Time


“It is a very sad part of my own personal history that I have seen children die of malnutrition, fading into [nothingness]. There is a look in the children’s eyes with malnutrition that is one of innocent disbelief. . .young innocent souls that almost [literally] say, ‘I just want food. Why can’t I have food?’ I ask the same question and I also have no

that makes any bit of logical sense.”  

As I was researching childhood malnutrition treatment in India last semester, the founder of an Indian medical NGO shared with me this quote.  My research has taken me on quite the journey, and I’ve had the incredible opportunity to speak with health workers and malnutrition advocates in multiple countries about access to RUTF in India.  As I wrote my paper, I came across this video (above) on the SAM India Project site.  This organization is committed to “building awareness and combating the crisis of severe acute malnutrition among children in India.” Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rates in India are among the highest in the world.  I wanted to share this video with Plumpy’nut Press readers because it outlines multiple steps that be taken to systematically reduce the pervasiveness of SAM in our world. My next few postings will more fully explore these steps and provide additional learning resources.  Stay tuned for step one: Addressing Malnutrition in Young Women and Mothers.


Accessing the Plumpy’nut Patent

On October 13, 2010, The French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and Nutriset, a world leader in the fight against childhood malnutrition, made a revolutionary announcement that the patent for ready-to-use foods (RUTF), like Plumpy’nut, will be available online.  This announcement comes just in time for the celebration of World Food Day on October 16th.

Under this system, the patent for these lifesaving products is just a few clicks away! The ultimate goal of online accessibility to the patent is to encourage nutritional autonomy by fostering local RUTF production in countries where childhood malnutrition is a national crisis.

After completing the simple online form, patent beneficiaries will receive an automatically generated certificate.  This certificate will allow local producers of RUTF products to develop products similar to Plumpy’nut.  This way, they can create their own formulas and recipes suitable for their region’s needs, implement their own quality production system, and conduct their own branding and marketing promotions.  Access to the patent license is open to any country in which Nutriset and the IRD have filed their patents.

In return for access to the patent, the IRD, a public research institute, welcomes beneficiaries to contribute 1% of their turnover to be used for IRD research.  Nutriset seeks no financial compensation for the patent as it expects its research will be funded through the sale of its products.

Nutriset developed the range of Plumpy products, including Plumpy’nut, that since 1997, have been used to treat nearly 7 million children (see image below for more information).  In 2005, Nutriset launched the PlumpyField Network to encourage nutritional autonomy.  Just through this innovation, Nutriset and the PlumpyField Network already produce over 30% of the Plumpy’nut used to treat severe acute malnutrition!  One can only imagine the tremendous impact that online patent accessibility will have on the production of Plumpy’nut products!

For more information on this revolutionary step, read the full press release here.


The range of Nutriset products aimed at treating every level of malnutrition. Click image to enlarge.



Nonprofit Spotlight: Project Peanut Butter

Project Peanut Butter is a Malawi-based nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Mark Manary in 1999.  Since its founding, Project Peanut Butter has provided home-based malnutrition therapeutic care to hundreds of thousands of children in Malawi.  By providing ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), which in Malawi is referred to as Chiponde, at health clinics, Project Peanut Butter continues to be one of the frontrunners in treating acute childhood malnutrition.  Project Peanut Butter has expanded their relief efforts to Sierra Leone.  After reading about this organization below, consider donating to their RUTF production in Sierra Leone.

Can you explain why Project Peanut Butter adopted the home-based therapy program to treat malnutrition?  How does this program work?

Project Peanut Butter’s home-based therapy program is an answer to inpatient programs for malnourished children in Malawi that found poor recovery rates. There are many benefits to home-based therapy: children who do not need to be hospitalized can be treated at home, mothers who are subsistence farmers spend less time in hospitals while their child is being treated, and children treated outside of the hospital are not at risk to get nosocomial infections (infections spread from other patients inside the hospital). The recovery rate for severely malnourished children in home-based therapy is about 90%.

The program works by enrolling children who are severely malnourished as characterized by their weight and height. In general, children who look sick or especially thin are referred by a village health worker to a malnutrition clinic, the children are screened on a set of enrollment criteria, and if they are malnourished, they begin a 6- or 8-week program (on average) for nutritional rehabilitation.

Is Chiponde the same thing as Plumpy’nut?  If there are any differences, can you explain them?

“Chiponde” is the local name for the same, peanut butter-based therapeutic food, literally meaning “paste” or “peanut butter” in Chichewa, the language spoken by Malawians. Scientifically, we refer to Chiponde or Plumpy’nut as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). There are other names for RUTF: in Sierra Leone the product is colloquially referred to as “kakatuwa,” which means something that is especially effective or potent.

What are the benefits of using Chiponde at Project Peanut Butter’s nutrition centers?

Chiponde, or RUTF is a high-energy, high-protein therapeutic food with a full set of vitamins and minerals. Chiponde is peanut butter-based and does not spoil, does not require cooking or processing, and does not need to be refrigerated. Most children eat chiponde straight from a jar or foil envelope or are fed by their mothers.

In July of 2007, several groups in the United Nations including the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) published a joint statement establishing home-based therapy with RUTF as the best way to treat children with severe malnutrition who do not need to be hospitalized.

Following a diagnosis of severe malnutrition, what treatment does the child undergo at Project Peanut Butter clinics and sites?

Children are given an amount of RUTF chiponde that is proportional to their weight, and the child’s mother is told to bring the child back in two weeks for observation of the child’s progress. The treatment is simple and takes only minimal intervention; we want the program to be as easy and accessible to children as possible.

How does Project Peanut Butter integrate itself with the local communities where Chiponde is produced?

Project Peanut Butter is a thoroughly local program; all of the malnutrition clinics operated by PPB are assisted by village health workers or “Health Surveillance Assistants” (HSAs) who are government employees. Additionally, PPB partners with the Malawian government hospitals who have their own malnutrition clinics all over Southern Malawi, and all of the Chiponde is produced locally in Blantyre, Malawi by an all-Malawian staff with Malawian ingredients.

Does Project Peanut Butter use any other Plumpy products (Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, Nutributter, Plumpy’soy)?

Project Peanut Butter, which also does extensive research about malnutrition and related diseases, is currently using Supplementary’Plumpy (a.k.a. “Supply”) in a study about moderate malnutrition.  Some of these products produced by Nutriset were researched by our staff.

Can you explain Project Peanut Butter’s collaboration with Nutriset and Andre Briend?

The product RUTF and the home-based therapy program are both a result of the work from three entities: researcher Andre Briend who proposed the product, physician Dr. Mark Manary (PPB’s director) who field tested RUTF in Malawi, and the first large-scale producer of RUTF, Nutriset in the South of France.

All three parties are extensively involved today in the fight against childhood malnutrition through research, international aid work, and RUTF production.

How many children has Project Peanut Butter treated at its clinics and sites?  How successful has Chiponde been in Project Peanut Butter’s work to fight childhood malnutrition?

In 2009, the PPB factory in Malawi produced about 650 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat between 40,000 and 45,000 severely malnourished children. In 2010, Project Peanut Butter will produce between 800 and 1,000 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat somewhere between 50,000 and 65,000 severely malnourished children.

Additionally, the PPB factory in Freetown, Sierra Leone started industrial-scale production in April 2009 and has produced food for and helped to treat several thousand children.

What’s next for Project Peanut Butter?

PPB will continue its full-time work with a national program for malnourished children in Malawi. Additionally, the production facility in Sierra Leone will expand its capacity this year, and finally an investigation is being made by PPB employees to start a new project in the country of Mali.

This summer we also began a new chapter for PPB, supporting the work of the Little Sisters of Charity and the Sons of Divine Providence in Payatas, Phillipines in treating malnutrition among slum dwellers with tuberculosis. This cooperative venture combines medicinal and nutritonal care for these patients. We are open to continuing this relationship.

Are there any stories about specific children who were saved by Chiponde that you would like to share?

There are many stories about the hard work and dedication of the people we work with in Malawi in Sierra Leone, and at least one story for every child that we treat. All of the stories point to the same goal of helping children who are malnourished who would otherwise not be helped.

What should readers do if they would like to donate to Project Peanut Butter?

They can mail a check or money order to the PPB headquarters at:

Project Peanut Butter

7435 Flora Avenue

Maplewood, MO 63143

Or donate online at

Medika Mamba: Haiti’s own Plumpy’nut!

Before Plumpy’nut was introduced to Haiti, there was “Medika Mamba.”  Mamba, peanut butter in Creole, was the locally produced RUTF (ready-to-use-therapeutic food) already being used to treat severely malnourished Haitian children.  However, when Haiti was ravaged by the devastating January earthquake, international aid organizations rushed to purchase Plumpy’nut, the “gold standard” RUTF rather than purchase locally produced foods.  Meds & Foods for Kids (MFK), a US based nonprofit organization, was already actively producing Medika Mamba, but found their small nonprofit struggling to compete with major aid organizations after the earthquake.  In order to continue their lifesaving work, MFK joined forces with Nutriset, Plumpy’nut’s manufacturer.

Medika Mamba - Photo from MANA

Rather than importing RUTF, MFK opts to be a locally-sustained organization.  Despite unreliable electricity and infrastructure, MFK creates its own Medika Mamba.  While Plumpy’nut comes in single serving packets, Medika Mamba is distributed in bags that cost about $6 to produce and provide a child with a week’s worth of nourishment.  Their product is distributed through partnerships with 20 Haitian health clinics.  As MFK states, their bottom line equates to “better futures.”  To date, MFK has helped over 10,000 Haitian children realize a better life and future!

Though MFK is US-based, every package of Medika Mamba is created in Haiti using local ingredients and employees.  However, as stated by the UN’s report on Medika Mamba and MFK’s Project Director Tom Stehl, using local ingredients sometimes presents a challenge.  Some peanuts are contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungus that can lead to liver cancer.  However, MFK relies on local employees and lab tests to weed out contaminated peanuts.  Currently, MFK is working with Haitian farmers to develop aflatoxin-free peanuts.

By focusing production locally, MFK is boosting Haitian employment, fostering smarter agricultural practices, and educating local healthcare providers.  While Medika Mamba, like Plumpy’nut, is a short-term solution, the results of boosting a local economy in a developing country are certainly not!

Sources consulted:

“A Tremor for Haiti’s Aid Industry” – Foreign Policy

Meds & Foods for Kids

The Power of Plumpy’nut

Judging by the look on the faces of the children eating it, Plumpy'nut is certainly a beloved treat (for more than just the taste of course, too!). Photo credit: Julie Pudlowski

Although Plumpy’nut may have a funny name, its power to save millions of lives is nothing short of amazing.  So what is it about this product that earned it the right to be called “Africa’s miracle food”?  Plumpy’nut is a Ready- to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) that provides severely malnourished children with a high protein and high-energy meal.  Peanut paste, vegetable oil, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and essential vitamins and minerals are combined and sealed in a foil packet to create this lifesaving formula.

Each pouch contains 500 calories.  Its high caloric content, along with the high amounts of protein, zinc, and fat, results in rapid weight growth, long-term muscle development, and a stronger immune system.  If eaten two times a day for two to four weeks, a child can be saved from severe malnutrition.  Furthermore, Plumpy’nut has a shelf life of two years, is easy for the child to feed to his or herself, and is easy to digest.  It is estimated that one month’s treatment of Plumpy’nut costs $20 per child.

In the past, powdered milk formulas had been used to treat malnutrition.  Unfortunately, these formulas needed to be mixed with clean water – a rare commodity in many of the regions where malnutrition is widespread.   Peanuts are already recognized as a staple food throughout Africa, so they are readily available for local producers to use and their taste is familiar and accepted.

One of the greatest benefits of Plumpy’nut is that it doesn’t require extended stays at medical facilities, which are often always filled to capacity.  Prior to the invention of Plumpy’nut, mothers (or fathers), would have to travel miles to feeding stations, leaving their other children and homes unattended for long periods of time.  Now, after receiving a sufficient amount of Plumpy’nut, they can return home and nurse their child back to health!

Plumpy’nut is effective, affordable, pragmatic, and the kids love the taste!  After sampling it last year, I thought that it tasted like an extra sweet peanut butter.  We distributed samples to Walk for Plumpy’nut participants last year and it got a range of reviews.  But, judging by the look on the faces of the children eating it, it is certainly a beloved treat (for more than just the taste of course, too!).

Want to support Food for Thought’s student-run annual Walk for Plumpy’nut?  Send me an e-mail at or check out

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