Peanut Paste Saves Starving African Children

"The lack of intense infections in industrialized countries, owing to improved hygiene, vaccination and use of antibiotics, may alter the immune system such that it responds inappropriately to innocuous substances," explained the article.

"After several years of using this product," said Briend, "and feeding several hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished patients with it, I never heard of a place where it was a real issue."

Buying the Basics

Recently, another product was developed. EZ Paste, generically known as BP-100, is similar to Plumpy'nut but does not contain peanuts. It does not have a commercial manufacturer.

As of 2006, only one company, the French-based Nutriset, was manufacturing Plumpy'nut and its individual ingredients for self-assembly.

"There should be hundreds of them," said Tectonidis, making products like Plumpy'nut.

But until American companies "get on it and become competitive," he said, major manufacturing of the revolutionary food will remain minimal.

Plumpy'nut costs roughly 25 cents per packet to manufacture, making a two-week supply (the amount usually needed to make a significant difference in malnutrition) costs roughly $7.

But by using peanut and milk surpluses in countries like the United States, where farmers are often paid to destroy their surplus crops, Tectonidis hopes to be able to buy the ingredients for RUTF wholesale, which would cut manufacturing costs in half.

"There could be a program where they get the raw materials for free and distribute it to the people all over the world," he said. "As long as they agree to sell the product without charging for the raw materials, we could get the product down to 10 or 12 cents a package."

The United Nations World Food Program could help such a collaboration, which Tectonidis said is urgently needed. "Young children in poor countries are dropping like flies due to acute malnutrition," he said.

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