A peanut paste that has been hailed as a miracle food for treating malnutrition is the subject of a patent battle, the BBC reports, with competitors charging the patent prevents millions of desperately ill children from receiving treatment. The French company that makes Plumpy’nut, which one competitor says is nothing more than "fortified Nutella," argues that the patent has not prevented any child from getting access to the product. But two American companies say there is widespread demand for their cheaper versions.
Plumpy’nut combines peanut butter, powdered milk, sugar, and vegetable oil, and fortifies the paste with vitamins and minerals. Because it allows patients to be treated at home rather than in a hospital, far less staffing is needed to provide treatment. The US companies argue that Nutriset’s near-monopoly is unethical; Nutriset—which does allow some African countries to make the product locally—argues that cheap American equivalents would mean those African producers won’t be able to compete.