The food aid usually given to young children in developing nations is inadequate and should be replaced with products specifically designed for them, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Tuesday.
"In the current cupboard of emergency aid, there are foods that are appropriate for adults. But for young children, the foods are powders made from enriched cereals invented 30 years ago," the leader of the agency's nutrition team, Stephane Doyon, told AFP.
"We now know that the makeup of these foods is not adequate to properly nourish a child who is less then two years old," he added on the sidelines of a UN-sponsored conference in Madrid on food security.
Malnutrition contributes to the death each year of between 3.5 and five million children under five, according to the aid agency.
But since the start of this decade a new paste made of nuts, milk, oil and sugar which is enriched with vitamins and minerals has been developed which is more effective in fighting malnourishment among young children, Doyon said.
"Children can eat it themselves and it is not necessary to add water," he said.
In a pilot project carried out by the agency in 2007 in Niger, thousands of children between six and 36 months were provided this type of food and the result was that the usual peak in malnutrition during the lean season from May to September did not occur, he said.
Encouraged by the results of the pilot project, the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for clinical trials of ready-to-eat blended foods.