Partnership potential: India’s therapeutic foods manufacturers rally government to address acute malnutrition

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

According to a national survey conducted between 2015 and 2016, 35.7% of Indian children under the age of five were found underweight and 38.4% stunted. ©Getty Images
According to a national survey conducted between 2015 and 2016, 35.7% of Indian children under the age of five were found underweight and 38.4% stunted. ©Getty Images

Related tags India Malnutrition

A group of ready-to-use therapeutic foods manufacturers is rallying the Indian government to address acute malnutrition through commercial partnerships.

The group behind the initiative is Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) Association of India.

While CMAM groups are present in various countries, the CMAM Association of India was only formed in March this year and comprises of four member companies at present. They are Nuflower Foods and Nutrition, Soma Nutrition Labs, Hexagon Nutrition, and Compact India.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​president of the association Akshat Khandelwal, said the association has been writing to the government to persuade them of the necessity of supplying therapeutic foods to malnourished populations.

Akshat, who is also the founder and CEO of Nuflower Foods and Nutrition, has been selling ready-to-use therapeutic foods, such as lipid-based nutrient supplements to organisations such as the World Food Program and Save the Children International, which then supplies to impoverished countries.

The countries include African states such as Nigeria, Congo, South East Asia’s Myanmar, as well as up north in Mongolia and North Korea. 

Nuflower’s products are mainly catered to the needs of severely malnourished children under the age of five.

Nuflower had supplied ready-to-use therapeutic foods in a pilot led by the National Health Mission in Rajasthan. 

However, he believes that the government needs to run a long-term program. 

“COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate the severity of malnourished situations.

“The world economy has taken a big hit with COVID-19 and that hits the people at the bottom rung the hardest.

“We are ready to modify the formula if the government or public health specialists feel that the ready-to-use therapeutic foods sold in other countries are not suited for Indians,” ​he said.

According to India’s National Family Health Survey​ (NFHS) conducted in 2015 and 2016, 35.7% of the children under the age of five were underweight and 38.4% stunted.

This is an improvement from 2005 and 2006, where the survey conducted back then showed that 42.5% of the children under five were underweight and 48% stunted.  

The government said it has set up schemes such as Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and Pradhan MantriMatruVandanaYojna (PMMVY) under the Umbrella Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme to address malnutrition.

The Poshan Abhiyaan scheme set up by the government in 2017 is also targeted at improving nutritional status of children under six years old, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers over a three-year period.

Existing products

Nuflower currently sells four types of lipid-based nutrient tear-open supplements in the form of a paste.

The products mainly comprise of peanut and milk powder to provide children with protein, fats, and carbohydrates, and at different stages of malnutrition. 

For instance, its NutriFEEDO product, made from roasted peanuts, milk powder, and vitamin-mineral premix, is used as a treatment for children with severe acute malnutrition, defined as a weight-for-height score below -3.

Its NutriFEEDO is targeted at children with moderate acute malnutrition, defined as a weight-for-height score between - 2 and - 3. 

In the case of India, Akshat said that ingredients that locals were familiar with, such as chickpeas, could be used to substitute peanut.

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