A four-member team of IIT researchers prepared the formulation in their food chemistry and technology lab which could be used as part of medical nutrition therapy for management of severe acute malnutrition children.
"This is ready to eat and can be sold in pouches as food paste. We have prepared five food formulations based on peanut, potato and Bengal gram (chana) to suit different tastes and nutrient needs of malnourished children. It is also easily digestible," IIT professor Dr H N Mishra, who led the research, told PTI.
"It has all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients and protein which a malnourished child needs," he said. "Such children need special attention as they lack calories and energy. Their digestion capacity is affected and their whole system has grown weak. Therefore, they need such therapeutic food and diet-care approach," Prof Mishra said.
Food engineers at the IIT Kharagpur have developed a cheap ready-to-eat paste.
Two Phd students and an assistant worked with him for more than a year on the project. Since the product targeted the underprivileged section of the society, the cost of production was low and could be sold by the industry profitably at Rs 50-60 a kg, Mishra said.
Rs 1.8 crore in funds for the IIT project was sanctioned by the biotechnology department of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology. IIT Kgp has tied up with Delhi-based Gattapu Chemicals as industry partner which would have the rights to sell the formulation.
The team has also made the machines needed to develop the food. "We did this to demonstrate it on a pilot-scale trial. Now our industry partners can replicate this on a larger commercial scale," Mishra said.
It was hoped that the food would be available in the market by next year. According to UNICEF estimates, one in every three malnourished children in the world lived in India.
Malnutrition in early childhood has serious, long-term consequences because it puts them at greater risk of disease and early death. The World Health Organisation has issued guidelines stating that ready-to-use therapeutic foods could be used to manage severe acute malnutrition in community settings.
With an estimated 8.1 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the country, it was regarded as an important cause of morbidity and mortality in children below five years of age in India.