Issue 39

Food aid specialists call for more milk knowledge

Formulators need to know the level of milk required to give affordable supplementary foods a nutritional lift

More research is required to understand the effect of milk on the growth and recovery of malnourished children when developing the next generation of ready-to-use supplementary foods, say leading food aid specialists.
Equally important is the question of cost, they add. Affordability facilitates mass distribution of nutritionally optimised supplementary foods – enhancing the chances of recovery for the one in four children around the world with malnutrition.

Milk top of the agenda
The international line-up of food aid specialists spoke at the first food aid seminar hosted by Arla Foods Ingredients in Denmark where opportunities with milk and whey ingredients topped the agenda. 
Among the participants was André Briend, who, in the 1990s, co-founded the first ready-to-use therapeutic foods for children with severe acute malnutrition. Today, he emphasises the need to make more optimal nutrition available to the moderately malnourished.
“Children with moderate malnutrition may not be so obvious, but in fact the problem is bigger,” he says.
“Huge progress has been made since the first ready to use therapeutic foods appeared – all NGOs now use an ambulatory approach to treating severely malnourished children, and the number of children treated has increased dramatically. But today people realise that we need to go back to optimising nutrition and cost.”

Studies with whey ingredients
In recent studies, scientists have investigated the taste acceptability, tolerance and nutritional contribution of whey ingredients in supplementary food formulations. A clinical study run by Project Peanut Butter is currently underway in Malawi to determine the ability of whey permeate and whey protein concentrate to promote recovery and healthy growth among 1,800 moderately malnourished children. The US Dairy Export Council and Arla Foods Ingredients are sponsoring the study.
High in lactose and minerals, whey permeate is of particular interest due to its relatively low cost. Today, it is supported by a new European standard for the whey product powders used in food, initiated by Arla Foods Ingredients and the European Whey Products Association.

Need for ongoing collaboration
A key challenge moving forward is to determine the minimum level of a milk-based ingredient that can be added to obtain a nutritional benefit at lowest cost. That calls for continued collaboration between the food industry and academia, comments André Briend.
“The first ready-to-use therapeutic foods were the result of collaboration. It’s the way to go. Over the next 10 years, I hope there will be progress on the issue of the prevention of child malnutrition and nutrition during pregnancy,” he adds.
Pleased with the success of the first food aid seminar, Arla Foods Ingredients expects to host a similar event in the future.