Should India Use Commercially Produced Ready To Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) For Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) ?


  • vandana prasad
  • radha holla
  • arun gupta


ready-to -use-therapeutic foods (RUTF), severe acute malnutrition(SAM)


Globally, nearly 20 million children under five suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), a condition which contributes to one million child deaths annually. In India 48% of children under five years of age are stunted and 43 percent are underweight; almost 8 million suffer from SAM. Malnutrition is not a new problem in India, nor is SAM. Several hospitals and non-government organizations are engaged in community-based management of malnutrition using locally produced/procured and locally processed foods along with intensive nutrition education. These programs enable parents to meet the nutritional requirements of their children with foods that are available at low cost. The Supreme Court of India has also directed the government to universalize the Integrated Child Development Scheme and provide one hot cooked meal to children under six years of age to supplement their nutrition. The blame for the increasing number of severely malnourish children can be laid at the door of policies that have destroyed poor people’s access to food. Nonetheless, there is urgent need to ensure that these children do not die; that they recover and maintain a healthy nutritional status. The current thinking – that a centrally produced and processed Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) should supplant the locally prepared indigenous foods in treatment of SAM – ignores the multiple causes of malnutrition and destroys the diversity of potential solutions based on locally available foods. This position paper has been drafted by Dr. Vandana Prasad, Radha Holla and Dr. Arun Gupta, members of the Working Group for Children Under Six – a joint effort of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People’s Health Movement – India) and the Right to Food Campaign which been advocating for the last three years with the Indian government for decentralized and community-based strategies to combat and prevent malnutrition in children.

Author Biographies

vandana prasad

community pediatrican and IYCF activist

radha holla

IYCF activist

arun gupta

pediatrician and IYCF activist






Themes and Debates