The peanut industry has begun to support an effort (Peanut Butter for the Hungry) to increase the use of peanut-based ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF) to help malnourished children in places where resources are limited.
In 1999, a scientist named Dr. Andre Briend with the World Health Organization developed a product that combined powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals and peanut butter into a “ready-to-use therapeutic food” which is revolutionizing the treatment of severe malnutrition in some of the most desperate places on earth. This ready-to-use therapeutic food is based on the tried and true formula F-100 milk which has been used for generations to treat malnutrition in third world countries. By replacing the liquid milk with protein-rich peanut butter and powdered milk, the new F-100 milk formula becomes shelf stable and transportable, allowing aid workers to treat malnourished children in a completely new way. Instead of checking into hospitals, children are fed at home by their mothers, using the ready-to-use food product. No water is needed, so the food stays bacteria free, and does not need to be refrigerated.
With a 90% or higher success rate, aid groups are anxious to expand usage. This new food is particularly effective for treating children 6 months to 2 years, which are among the most vulnerable. Current production capacity for the ready-to-use food is approximately 25-30,000 metric tons, while the estimated potential for the product is anywhere from 200,000 metric tons to 750,000 metric tons.
The peanut industry has committed financial and intellectual resources to the development of this product as a humanitarian endeavor.