Use of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic foods (RUTF) is not very effective in addressing severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in India, the central government has told states.

While such food items, promoted by many NGOs, have proved highly effective in treating severe malnutrition in countries such as Africa, trails have shown it was not so in India.

“Use of RUTF may replace nutritional best practices and family foods that children should normally be eating” which may affect practices such as breastfeeding, the Women and Child Development ministry said in a letter to all states.

They are “temporarily helpful for nutritional rehabilitation” and not of benefit to “a common household in developing appropriate food habits for children as against home augmented food”, the ministry had earlier said in a letter.

A study had recently found that counselling of parents and reference to the nearest primary health centre were more effective methods than providing packaged theraputic food items in managing severe malnutrition.

Such results had made many expert doctors to write letters to the Prime Minister to caution against “quick fixes” of buying commercial products.

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