PRI Examines India's Efforts To Combat Malnutrition Using Local Product

PRI’s “The World” reports on malnutrition in India, where “eight million children … suffer from severe acute malnutrition, according to the Indian government.” However, the news service writes that “when it comes to treating those children, India lacks what many consider one of the best tools available: so-called ready-to-use therapeutic foods,” such as “the most well-known therapeutic food, Plumpy’Nut, … a patented concoction of peanut butter and micro-nutrients that allows severely malnourished children to be treated at home instead of at a hospital.” PRI notes, “Plumpy’Nut is not authorized for the treatment of malnutrition in India, and some doctors feared that dependence on a foreign import would come at the expense of the kind of locally produced food that Indian families prepare at home.”

“Vandana Prasad of the Public Health Resource Network — which fought the use of Plumpy’Nut in India — says she’s not opposed to therapeutic foods altogether, just those made by big companies outside of India,” the news service writes. However, any locally produced product must be tested, the news service notes, adding doctors “are conducting a trial of about 200 children” to test a “paste that looks like Plumpy’Nut but is made from local ingredients.” According to PRI, “Full results of the trial are due in December,” and, “[i]f they show sustained improvement, [Mamta Manglani, who leads the study,] says that will help convince Indian politicians that therapeutic food — made in local production kitchens — has a role to play in India” (Werth, 9/24).