Nutrition studies

Food aid with a taste of dairy goodness

Project Peanut Butter tests Variolac® 850 whey permeate in food for malnourished children in Malawi

Children with moderate malnutrition in Malawi could soon benefit from food aid products with dairy nutrients provided by whey permeate.

The US-based, non-profit, food aid organisation Project Peanut Butter is launching a study to investigate the acceptability of Variolac® 850 whey permeate from Arla Foods Ingredients as a partial sugar replacer in ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF).

Affordable dairy nutrition
Comprising peanut paste, soya and palm oil, roasted soya, sugar and a nutrient mix, Project Peanut Butter’s RUSF recipes have until now steered clear of expensive dairy ingredients, which are reserved for ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) targeting acute malnutrition. 

The arrival of food-grade whey permeate on the market presents a new, cost-effective opportunity to give dairy nutrition to the moderately undernourished as well. High in lactose and containing important minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, permeate has high potential as a sweet and nutritious partial substitute for the sugar in RUSF.

Sophia Agapova, who works at Project Peanut Butter along with project founder Dr Mark Manary, expects the formulas containing whey permeate to be ready by the end of the year.

Acceptability test
Formulated in line with World Health Organisation standards, the permeate-containing RUSF will first be tested for stability and taste and then produced at the organisation’s own factory in Malawi. Children aged one to three years will be recruited for a three-day acceptability test.

“We will give the RUSF to the parents to feed to their children so we can see how much they eat and how quickly they eat it. Then we will ask the parents to rate how much the children like the food,” Agapova says.“On the second and third days, we will ask if there have been any negative effects.”

Targeted addition
Charlotte Sørensen, Arla Foods Ingredients food application manager, is hopeful that free-flowing Variolac® 850 will prove a successful addition to the ready-to-use foods of Project Peanut Butter. “Permeate is a very cost effective ingredient. We believe it could be an important addition to today’s much more targeted food aid for the undernourished,” she says.

Project Peanut Butter began producing RUSF in 2006 and, last year, produced 1,000 tonnes of RUSF and RUTF at its factories in Malawi and Sierra Leone. Moderately undernourished children treated with an eight-week RUSF diet have a recovery rate of 80%. If the taste of Variolac® 850 has the right appeal, there is a chance the recovery rate could get even higher.