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RUTF / New Codex guideline will protect vulnerable children


The agreement reached at the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses on a new guideline on Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) means there will now be an official document that can serve as a reference for national governments to use in their policies for nutritional treatment of childhood wasting, says Alison Fleet of UNICEF’s supply division.

This guideline is expected to be used as a tool for regulation of RUTF products that are given to vulnerable populations, and appropriate implementation and the enforcement of the guideline will protect the consumer and ensure RUTF is an effective product enabling recovery and catch up growth of children with wasting.

Nolene Naicker from the South African Department of Health who led the working group that drafted the text said: “Codex standards, guidelines and codes of practice are held in very high importance in many countries and we understand the important role that Codex plays in ensuring quality and safety of food products for fair trade. In many countries RUTF is used to save the lives of children with severe acute malnutrition daily, thus a product that maintains food safety and quality standards is imperative.” 

Initial work began on RUTF in the committee 2014 and following extensive discussions over the years to have reached agreement and finalization of this guideline is, according to Naicker a “great achievement”.

With support from the government of the United States of America to fund expert reviews on the contaminant and fatty acid sections and from FAO with an assessment of the protein needs for catch-up growth, collaboration between countries and support from the Codex Secretariat and German hosts of the committee were key. Another success factor was the proactive and inclusive leadership from South Africa, who ensured the progression towards finalization, said Fleet.

UNICEF described their reaction as “thrilled to have completed the work after so many years” and South Africa who together with Uganda and Senegal co-chaired the working group in Codex, were reportedly “ecstatic”.

“The challenges introduced by working virtually as a result of the covid pandemic were overcome given the extraordinary work ethic maintained by this fantastic team,” said Naicker.  “Compromise was also a key aspect whilst continuously keeping the needs of our children at the forefront of our discussions.  So, we are happy today to proclaim our children the well-deserved winners of this work.”


Learn more

UNICEF and Nutrition

Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses 42nd Session


Photo credit © UNICEF/UNI231209/Estey