Developing a local plant-based Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for Eastern Africa


GCRF AgriFood Africa Innovation Awards Round 2





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About the project

UK-registered Partner: Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich – Aurelie Bechoff
Africa-registered Partner: Equatorial Nuts Processing Ltd – Samuel Maina

Acute undernutrition is a major public health issue affecting mostly children under the age of five. Ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF) is the standard treatment for acute undernutrition without complications, especially its severe form.

Standard RUTF is mostly imported from high-income countries. The high cost of powdered milk – an ingredient – is prohibitive for RUTF production in poorer settings. Moreover, emulsifiers contained in the formulation could affect the already fragile gut microbiota of malnourished children. An efficacious alternative formulation made from locally available plant-food ingredients (>90% from sub-Saharan Africa) was developed but needs further optimisation. In addition, there is a need for replacement of the emulsifiers.

Our early product development stage is a collaboration between the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, an international RUTF expert Peter Akomo, and a private company Equatorial Nuts Processors (ENP) based in Kenya. We tested several formulations at ENP laboratories, culminating in a final plant food-based formulation that contained soybean, maize, sorghum, and a chickpea concentrate as an emulsifier’s replacement. The formulation was supplemented with a premix of vitamins and minerals to meet RUTF standard nutritional specifications and tested for food safety. Consumer testing was performed among Kenyan adult consumers selected at random in market settings in Murang’a county (n=134) comprising 70% women.

Results showed that our fully plant-based formulation was acceptable to the consumers. However, it did not achieve the same level of likeness as the commercial RUTF. Further work is needed to optimise the sensory properties of our novel formulation.


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