Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food as solution to malnutrition

Jodesz Gavilan

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Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food or RUTF is said to be highly effective in treating severely malnourished children

MANILA, Philippines – The lack of proper facilities and sources in remote areas leave severely malnourished children with not much choice but to travel just to be treated.

In some cases, they die before reaching a doctor in a health facility.

In 1997, the Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) was introduced as an answer to this problem. RUTF, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a special nutritional product usually composed of peanut butter mixed with milk. It also has vitamins and minerals as health supplements.

Watch the video from the Action Against Hunger below to find out more about how RUTF can help end hunger.

RUTF as solution

RUTF was first developed for communities with limited access to resources such as clean water, thus preventing bacterial growth that could lead to illnesses such as diarrhea.

Previous versions such as Action Against Hunger’s milk formula, or the F100, failed to address issues regarding potable water and shelf-life span.

A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that RUTF is highly effective in treating severely malnourished children.

The United Nations recommended in 2007 the use and distribution of RUTF, especially to low-income countries, to treat acute malnutrition.


When Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas in 2013, it left residents with zero resources. People attempted to travel to other areas hoping to get something, only to return empty-handed. They had to depend on relief coming from the outside as even water became scarce.

Unlike milk formula, RUTF can be stored for longer periods without refrigeration. It does not require preparation like having to add water before ingestion. This allows households to facilitate intake without supervision from health experts and even other previously vital components to therapeutic food.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) provided 50 boxes of RUTF to those suffering from malnutrition as a result of the disaster. About 2,500 children were treated despite the damage in the community.

Revolutionary treatment

Unicef noted that the production of RUTF “revolutionized the treatment of children suffering from severe malnutrition.” It paved the way for improvements in home-based treatment of malnourished children.

Pumply’Nut was the first RUTF produced in 1997 by Andre Briend of Nutriset. The product was first distributed in Malawi.

Since then, Nutriset has been the top provider of nutritional products to welfare organizations involved in fighting hunger and malnutrition. The company is just one of the few producers, making RUTF not commercially available and distributed only by NGOs to communities with cases of malnutrition.

With almost 3 million deaths worldwide of children below-5, innovations of this kind are badly needed to combat malnutrition and hunger. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.