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Establishing the feasibility of developing a locally-made RUTF for Sierra Leone

Establishing the feasibility of developing a locally-made RUTF for Sierra Leone

Bechoff, Aurélie ORCID: 0000-0001-8141-4448, Bennett, Ben and Abayomi, Louise (2020) Establishing the feasibility of developing a locally-made RUTF for Sierra Leone. Project Report. Natural Resources Institute. (Submitted)

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Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is a serious public health problem in Sierra Leone and the government of Sierra Leone has made it a priority to tackle it. Over the last twenty years, ready-to-use-therapeutic food (RUTF) has been a success in treating SAM but it has to be imported. Sierra Leone has a diverse agroecological system potentially enabling the cultivation of various food crops that could be used as ingredients in RUTF. We investigated the feasibility of developing RUTF from locally produced ingredients and by local enterprises from 1) nutrition, 2) food safety and 3) business perspectives.
A literature review was carried out to identify the nutritional requirements and possible formulations for RUTF, assess potential food safety risks using local ingredients and to consider the business case for RUTF initiatives based on locally sources ingredients. Field interviews were conducted with various stakeholders from the private and public sectors in-country and with international experts in RUTF. Linear programming was applied to identify suitable formulations that could meet international product specifications for RUTF nutritional and aflatoxin requirements at minimum cost.
Our findings show that there are several possibilities for locally made RUTF formulations in Sierra Leone:
• Using existing formulations such as the standard formulation based on peanuts and powdered milk (allowing 50% substitution with local ingredients) or the milk-free soybean-based formulation with crystalline amino acids (allowing 95% substitution with local ingredients),
• Developing a novel formulation with some of the same ingredients as the existing formulations and/or other key local ingredients such as egg or fish powder.
Ensuring quality across the value chain from farm to consumption, will be of paramount importance for a food destined for severely malnourished children. Food testing capacity in Sierra Leone will require significant investment, alongside the adoption of Codex Alimentarius food safety standards (GAP, GHP, HACCP, GMP) by food business operators across the RUTF supply chains.
Activities that initiate demand for processed food can play an demonstration role in the local economy, encouraging other food sectors and businesses to emerge.
We identified the following hurdles:
• In-country laboratories (including private ones) are not yet accredited to ISO. UNICEF and WFP specify analytical product testing through ISO accredited laboratories only. Even where these bodies are not the target buyers, at a minimum, codex standards, to which Sierra Leone subscribes within its mandate, must be the standard to attain. This means that current methods measuring those key safety parameters such as mycotoxins, heavy metals, salmonella, and others, in raw ingredients and final product will need validation.
• Companies manufacturing food grade (stainless steel food contact parts) ancillary equipment are not present in the country, and therefore it is likely that some of the technology for producing RUTF will need to be imported.

• The literature on RUTF business models elsewhere based on local ingredient supply is rather scant and biased towards a limited number of successes. Most of these are from the Nutriset model of largely imported ingredients but locally manufactured.
• Government tax and the possibility of tax exemptions is an important issue that can have a big impact on viability and investment decisions.
• Scale of operation is important for business viability. Total demand for RUTF is not large (estimated at max. 500mt finished product). A business based on this scale may struggle with viability.
• The more complex the final product (i.e. RUTF), the greater the investment needs to be to achieve domestic production of that product.
We conclude that Sierra Leone has the means (i.e. domestic supply of ingredients) to produce healthy nutritious processed foods to address domestic malnutrition challenges. Local ingredient inclusion is possible: there is sufficient quantity and a range of ingredients are available to make a selection of nutritious foods up to and including RUTF.
We propose three options:
• Option 1: Do nothing – continue to import RUTF as needed
• Option 2: Develop the manufacture of intermediate products (i.e. nutritious food products) with the aim of developing RUTF production (product diversification):
• Option 3: Go directly to the production of RUTF: This option will require considerable technical and financial investment.
Of these options we strongly recommend Option 2 that encourages the emergence of a nutritious food sector, which can lead to the domestic manufacture of RUTF once the necessary infrastructure, supply chains and domestic policies/regulations are in place.
Our final recommendations are the following:
• The development of a detailed ingredient supply plan for the necessary ingredient chains that are viable and meet the necessary standards.
• Building from less complex food product towards a full scale RUTF production would balance out the business risks and encourage more actors to engage in the emerging complementary food sector.
• The government of Sierra Leone can play a facilitating role by providing preference for domestic businesses supplying healthy nutritious foods from local ingredients and by carefully targeting investment/support. We would encourage the imaginative use of government demand for different food products through the roll-out of a food preference programme as a cross-Ministerial initiative with private sector involvement aligned to a programme of supporting policies and regulatory frameworks to promote business in the sector.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: severe acute malnutrition, nutrition, food safety, business case, RUTF
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Food & Markets Department
Last Modified: 14 May 2021 23:22

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