Caterpillar cereal as a potential complementary feeding product for infants and young children: nutritional content and acceptability

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Micronutrient deficiency is an important cause of growth stunting. To avoid micronutrient deficiency, the World Health Organization recommends complementary feeding with animal-source foods. However, animal-source foods are not readily available in many parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In such areas, caterpillars are a staple in adult diets and may be suitable for complementary feeding for infants and young children. We developed a cereal made from dried caterpillars and other locally available ingredients (ground corn, palm oil, sugar and salt), measured its macro- and micronutrient contents and evaluated for microbiologic contamination. Maternal and infant acceptability was evaluated among 20 mothers and their 8–10-month-old infants. Mothers were instructed in the preparation of the cereal and asked to evaluate the cereal in five domains using a Likert scale. Mothers fed their infants a 30-g portion daily for 1 week. Infant acceptability was based on cereal consumption and the occurrence of adverse events. The caterpillar cereal contained 132 kcal, 6.9-g protein, 3.8-mg iron and 3.8-mg zinc per 30 g and was free from microbiologic contamination. Mothers' median ratings for cereal characteristics were (5 = like very much): overall impression = 4, taste = 5, smell = 4, texture = 4, colour = 5, and consistency = 4. All infants consumed more than 75% of the daily portions, with five infants consuming 100%. No serious adverse events were reported. We conclude that a cereal made from locally available caterpillars has appropriate macro- and micronutrient contents for complementary feeding, and is acceptable to mothers and infants in the DRC.

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