< Back to index

Dairy makes further food-aid inroads with Tufts recommendation, USDA request for proposal


Dairy makes further food-aid inroads with Tufts recommendation, USDA request for proposal

A new draft report from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy (commissioned by the United States Agency for International Development) gave further backing to the use of whey protein concentrate (WPC) in certain food aid products, while a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) draft request for proposal (RFP) created new commercial outlets for U.S. WPC and nonfat dry milk in emergency food products.

“The drafts of the Tufts study report and the RFP reference different food aid programs and distinct population targets, but together they offer further signs of expanded use of high-value dairy ingredients in what is essentially a new commercial channel for the U.S. dairy industry,” says Véronique Lagrange, vice president, strategic research and insights, U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). “The announcements align perfectly with government and aid community efforts to move higher quality, higher nutrition foods through emergency assistance channels.”

The drafts follow last summer’s breakthrough for dairy ingredient use in food aid, when the Office of Food for Peace approved WPC-80 and WPC-34 to be used in programs administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)—a change petitioned by USDEC.

“A couple of U.S. companies and USDEC members have already been very active on their own in this field and have developed capacity over the past year to meet the emerging demand of this channel,” says Lagrange.

WPC-80 in blended foods

The Tufts’ Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) draft report recommends including dairy (specifically WPC-80 at 3 percent) in the reformulation of corn-soy-blend, wheat-soy-blend and other similar fortified blended foods designed for the treatment and/or prevention of moderate acute malnutrition for children under 24 months of age and for other specific nutritional purposes.

“Years of scientific research have demonstrated that animal source protein, including dairy, is essential for recovery from undernutrition and for healthy growth,” says Nina Schlossman, nutritionist and a lead author of the Tufts review.

And although the draft specifically cites WPC-80, “we also leave the door open for other dairy ingredients,” Schlossman adds.

Tufts cites the protein quality of WPC-80 (as measured by its Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score or PDCAAS), its nutrient value per volume, its relatively stable price over the past decade (compared to milk powder), and its absence of fat as factors in favor of its use. (Milk powder remains the ingredient of choice for the United Nation’s World Food Program’s “Corn Soy Blend++” product, and its demand is unaffected.)

The draft also recommends WPC-80 over soy protein isolate, due to whey protein’s more favorable amino acid profile.

“Should aid agencies follow through on the Tufts recommendations, it would represent more than 9,000 metric tons of incremental WPC sales based solely on USDA’s corn-soy-blend use in food aid programs in 2009,” says Lagrange. “Initial volumes, in other words, are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of ultimate demand.”

The Tufts report is an independent study commissioned by USAID to account for the latest science, nutrition and aid agency programming priorities. It took two years to research and develop, engaging dozens of collaborators globally.

USDA’s request for proposal

The second dairy-relevant food aid development, USDA’s draft RFP, is not only notable for its dairy requirements, but also because this is the first time the agency is sourcing and will be purchasing such products. The department issued an RFP for three Ready-to-Eat Meal Replacement products: Paste (A-20), Rice Bar (A-28) and Wheat Bar (A- 29).  

The RFP mandates a protein content of up to 11 percent and a PDCAAS of 1, and that the product contain both U.S.-produced nonfat dry milk (NDM) and WPC-80. The maximum contract amount is for 50 million units (50g pouch) of ready-to-eat paste and 54 million units of ready-to-eat bars (55.5g each). This would represent a volume of 1,100 metric tons of milk powder or 550 metric tons of WPC-80, or a combination of both.

The products will be used in international food aid administered by USDA, the Foreign Agricultural Service and USAID.

UNICEF and Doctors-Without-Borders have strongly advocated the use of ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) for the treatment of acute malnutrition and for vulnerable populations in emergency situations. These products are safe and require no drinking water, and their nutritional efficacy has been demonstrated. In 2010, UNICEF purchased and distributed 1.229 million cartons of RUTF, up from 587,000 cartons in 2009, and only 240 in 2000.

“According to UNICEF, demand for ready-to-use meal replacements and supplements will continue to grow exponentially in the future,” says Lagrange. “Efforts are being made to manufacture and source the products locally, but short lead times and prompt response are critical in emergency situations. Hence, manufacture in countries such as the United States is critical to meeting nutritional needs during crises.”