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Technology for an instant almond gruel

Z. Hosseini and G. H. Kabir



This paper describes methods for processing an instant baby food made from rice and almonds. Commercial production of ready-to-serve baby foods in Iran is limited, and imported baby foods are expensive. Since home preparation is time-consuming and often neglected, a ready-to-serve local product is desirable. The resultant product was acceptable and caused no digestive disturbance when fed to children for three months.



Cereals are usually the first solid food added to infants' diets. Besides being a very good source of energy, they also provide protein, minerals, and vitamins [1, 2]. Foods given to Iranian infants are mainly prepared at home from rice and vegetables. Since preparation is time-consuming and tedious, it is often neglected. Families have recently become more interested in commercial ready-to-serve baby foods made from cereals. These are available in many parts of the world, but the domestic production in Iran is very limited, and so childrens' needs are being partially met with very expensive imported products.

Various methods have been suggested to improve the nutritional characteristics of weaning foods [3, 4]. To increase digestibility, starches in cereals and legumes can be modified by heat or germination [5, 6]. It has been reported that various starches are fully digested by infants and children when fed as cooked flours [7].

Our study was aimed at formulating and processing an instant baby food made from rice and almonds, similar to a traditional home-made baby food generally called almond gruel. Similar products have been prepared and marketed by foreign companies, but details of the technology have not been made available. It is hoped that the details provided by this study will meet a practical need.


Materials and methods

Rice and dry almonds were obtained from a local market. Three varieties of rice that are generally available in Iran (Amol 2, Comfiruzi, and Lenjani) were tested in order to choose the one most suitable for processing.

Prior to processing, the rice and almonds were cleaned by flotation or hand-sorting. The rice was washed and soaked for 12 hours at room temperature (approximately 22 C), after which it was dried in a forced-air draft oven at 55-65 C for five to six hours. The almonds were soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and peeled manually, then dried under the same conditions as the rice.

Various procedures and conditions for preparing the final precooked product were tested, such as cooking the ingredients whole or milled, different milling methods, particle sizes (30 and 45 mesh), and cooking temperatures (96 C and 121 C) and times (15 to 45 minutes).

After the initial cooking, a sample of the mixture was blended thoroughly and its viscosity was determined with a Bostwick consistometer.

Twenty-five grams of the final product was mixed with 120 ml of water to test its reconstitution properties, solubility, water-holding capacity, and texture.

The moisture, protein, fat, ash, fibre, calcium, phosphorus, and iron content of the raw materials and of the final product were determined according to the methods of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) [8].

A group of 10 children, four to six months old, were fed 25 g of the final product, mixed with either water or milk, daily for three months.



Initially we tried cooking the whole grains of rice under pressure (1.06 kg/cm2), but this caused excessive "elation after cooling and was the main factor preventing a homogeneous gruel. Grinding the rice before cooking and changing the temperature led to great improvement. The best results were achieved by grinding the rice to 30-mesh size and cooking it in water at 96 C for 15 minutes under normal atmospheric pressure, stirring constantly (manually at about 20 rpm) to prevent lumpiness.

The steps for the preparation of the product arrived at after testing various procedures and methods are diagrammed in figure 1.

Milling the almonds alone proved quite difficult, so the rice and almonds were combined before milling. The peeled almonds were mixed with the rice in a ratio of 15:85 and passed through an attrition mill (Straub Co., Croydon, Pa., USA, Model 4E) two or three times to yield a flour of about 30 mesh. The flour was packed in thick polyethylene bags, sealed, and stored in a dark room at room temperature.

The flour mixture was subsequently cooked in water (in a ratio of 1:8) in a stainless steel steam jacketed kettle for 45 minutes. The cooked flour was passed through a paste mill and then immediately dried on a pilot-plant-scale drum drier (Mathis Machine Corp., Model 14160) at 75-80 C to a final moisture content of 2.5%-3%.

The results of the viscosity measurements of samples taken from the cooked mixture before drying are shown in table 1.

The dried cooked mixture was milled in an attrition mill to the particle size needed for the right bulk density. It was then blended with powdered sugar in a ratio of 70:30.

When a 25-g sample of the final product was mixed with 120 ml of water, it dissolved quickly and reconstituted well. Its texture was soft and non-glutinous. Up to two hours after reconstitution, the gruel did not show syneresis.

Table 2 shows results of the analysis of the three varieties of rice tested. Reconstitution and solubility were taken as good practical criteria to choose the one most suitable for processing. After testing, Amol 2 was found to be the best.

Table 3 shows the nutrient composition of the raw materials and the final product.

The almond gruel was accepted well by the children to whom it was given. Feeding it for three months caused no digestive disturbances, and no adverse effects were observed.

TABLE 1. Viscosity measurement

Time after cooking Viscosity
(minutes) (cm/30 see)
30 _a
20 _a
10 5
5 8

a. Not determinable.

TABLE 2. Proximate analysis of three varieties of rice (grams per 100 g)







Amol 2



















FIG.1. Flow chart for the preparation of almond-rice powder


TABLE 3. Nutrient composition of raw materials and the final product per 100 g





































a. Almonds , rice, and sugar after processing.



The advantage of Amol 2 over the other varieties of rice can be attributed to its lower protein and fat content. The effect of fat was demonstrated when the addition of 2% fat to one of the formulas reduced its solubility and water-holding capacity to a considerable extent.

To produce an ideal and consistent product, one of the most important steps is to make a homogeneous slurry before drying. We were able to do this consistently with our procedures.

Because of its low allergenicity and high digestibility, rice is an excellent cereal base for a baby food [9], and almonds provide additional protein and caloric density. This baby food can be safely recommended as an appropriate and acceptable supplement to children's diets.



1. Anderson TA. Fomon SJ. Commercially prepared infant cereals: nutritional considerations. J Pediatr 1971; 78(5):788-93.

2. ESPAGN Committee on Nutrition. Guidelines on infant nutrition: 11. Recommendations for the composition of follow-up formula and beikost. Stockholm: ESPAGN, 1981.

3. Pedersen B, Hansen M. Munck L, Eggum BO. Weaning foods with improved energy and nutrient density prepared from germinated cereals: 2. Nutritional evaluation of gruels based on barley. Food Nutr Bull 1989;] 1(2):4652.

4. Marero LM, Payuma EM, Aguinaldo AR, Homma S. Nutritional characteristics of weaning foods prepared from germinated cereals and legumes. J Food Sci ]988;53(5): 1399-1402.

5. Marero LM, Payuma EM, Librando EC, Lainez WN, Gopez MD, Homma S. Technology of weaning food formulations prepared from germinated cereals and legumes. J Food Sci 1988;53(5):1391-95.

6. Nnanna IA, Philips D. Protein and starch digestibility and flatulence potential of germinated cowpeas. J Food Sci 1990,55(1):151-53.

7. Devizia B et al. Digestibility of starches in infants and children. J Pediatr 1975;86(1):5()-55.

8. Horwitz W, ed. Official methods of analysis. Washington, DC: Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC), 1980.

9. Cameron M, Hofvander Y. Manual on feeding infants and young children. Delhi/Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1983.


IFPRI report

Drought and famine relationships in Sudan: Policy implications

Tesfaye Teklu. Joachim von Braun. and Elsayed Zaki


Famine has persisted in Sudan through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Drought is one of its immediate causes and must be understood in a broad context if famine vulnerability is to be reduced with appropriate policy. This study asks: What are the determinants of famine in Sudan? What role does drought play? Who is affected? And further, what has the experience been with private action. including market and household responses, and with public action, including policies and programmes to deal with the problem? Quantitative analyses in the study are based on household level data specifically collected for this research in western Sudan, available data from other sources, and market- and sector-level information.

Periods of drought have occurred throughout the history of Sudan. In most cases these have been followed by famine and outbreaks of disease. The 1984-1985 famine was the outcome of a long process of drought and desertification, absent or misplaced public food and agricultural policy. and insufficient public response. Lacking in the government's response were a permanent institution responsible for famine preparedness and the political will to intervene early to prevent large-scale hunger and mass movements. Emergency food aid, which largely followed official recognition of the existence of famine. was constrained by untimely availability and logistical and managerial limitations. In addition, the macroeconomic policy environment in the 197()s and 198()s was not conducive to preventing erosion of the country's capacity to deal with the drought crises. War and civil unrest further undermined such capacity.

A large drop in agricultural production occurred in 1984-1985. This decline translated into a large drop in farm employment. A strong link between agricultural production and income (from crop production, local off farm wage employment, and livestock) increased the extent of income failure. As shown by an IFPRI survey in the famine-prone area of Kordofan in western Sudan, a large drop in nominal income, coupled with a rapid rise in food prices, resulted in a severe and widespread decline in purchasing power. Farmers had to dispose of their animals to maintain their food entitlement and to avoid imminent loss through death of the animals. Asset-poor households had to depend greatly on non-agricultural products and transfers to augment their low income. Some farmers had to move out of their villages much earlier than the normal season in search of work or relief support. Given the large share of income spent on food, households had to adjust their food consumption by cutting the size and frequency of meals and by changing the composition of their diet.

The original survey information from western Sudan shows that farmers adopt multiple coping paths and responses that involve substitutions in production, income, assets, and consumption. Households vary in their emphasis on the choice of coping responses. In general, they try to avoid action that would endanger their future survival. Their success in coping, however, is unequal across households because of unequal income and asset bases and unequal access to community risk-sharing networks and public support. Famine strikes different socio-economic groups in different ways. The evidence of 1984-1985 shows that. although the famine had a distinct location character, some groups were affected much more than others. Hardest hit were camel nomads in the northern arid zones, especially small-herd owners; asset-poor households, particularly recent settlers and capital-constrained female-headed households; and families without working members. The problem of recent settlers posed a special dilemma in light of the presence of a large number of war refugees in the area. In general, the burden of coping fell heavily on low-income households with a very small protective income source or asset base. The evidence also shows a rapid shift in the phases of and participation in the coping process that was adopted by the rural population in western Sudan. a severely affected famine area.

The study traces the effects of drought on production, markets, consumption, and nutrition, focusing on the 19841985 famine, its origin and aftermaths. Related findings are briefly reviewed below. Rainfall levels have declined in Sudan during the past three decades: mean annual rainfall declined by 6.7% between 1960-1969 and 1970-1979 and by 17.7% between 1970-1979 and 1980-1986. Furthermore, year-to-year fluctuations in rainfall around a trend line seem to have increased, especially in arid and semiarid zones. For example, coefficients of variation increased, on average, from 16% in the 1960s to 21% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s in western Sudan.

The decline in rainfall levels has resulted in low growth in cereal production, largely because of short-run effects on yield, as evident from a comparison of growth estimates with and without the drought year of 1984. Cereal production is also marked by considerable and increasing year-to-year fluctuation. Yield variability has been strongly associated with variability of rainfed crops.

Drought-production relationships show that a 10% drop in annual rainfall from mean levels implies a 5% drop in cereal production and a 3.7% drop in yield at the country level. Sorghum yield and, consequently, production are shown to be more affected than millet by declines in rainfall. A 10% drop in annual rainfall results in drops of 7.3% and 3.0% in sorghum and millet production respectively.

Markets for cereals are thin and very responsive to production changes. Deflated (real) cereal prices increased more than three times in the main famine year of 1984-1985 compared with 1982-1983. The related time-series analysis in the study shows that, under the prevailing trade and market-structure conditions, a 10% drop in production led to an approximate 26% increase in real prices of cereals in the same year. A 10% reduction in stocks (calculated at mean values) increased prices by 8%. Trade and aid contributed little toward mitigating the price effects of the drought driven production fluctuation.

The terms of trade change in disfavour of livestock and cash crops signals one element of the decline in the purchasing power of rural households. The terms of trade between domestic cereal and livestock changed drastically as a consequence of the drought in the 1980s. They increased from 1:1 in 1980 to about I :8 or 1:10 in 19841985. Thus, to acquire the same amount of cereals, eight to ten times more livestock had to be offered in 1984- 19X5 than in 1980. The model analysis shows that a 10% drop in cereal production resulted in an 18% increase in the cereal and livestock terms of trade. Domestic terms of trade between cereals and cash crops, such as groundnuts and sesame. increased two to three times as a consequence of the drought-related declines in cereal production. These combined production and price effects resulted in food-entitlement failure for large segments of the rural population.

Although considerable relative differences prevailed between regions, the general food price movement during the food crisis in 1984-1985 spread all over the country, thereby spreading the burden of the crisis to the poor in non-drought and urban areas. A statistical model testing for market integration shows that food markets were not segmented and that there was strong transmission of prices. Though interregional commodity flows were hampered by high market-transaction costs, particularly transport costs, a situation of "market failure" during the food crisis was not observed. However, the dramatic changes in the domestic terms of trade could happen only because of the limited integration of the country into the international exchange economy. A less constrained administrative and foreign exchange situation, or more (timely) food aid, might have prevented some of the large movements in paces.

The growth of aggregate per capita food availability was negative in the 1970s and 1980s, largely because of low growth in production relative to population growth. In 1984 there was a particularly large drop in per capita food availability despite measures to mitigate consumption shortfalls, such as increased food aid, imports, and off-take from public grain reserves. The drop varied by region and the impact by type of household. Adjustment pressures on drought-induced price and income changes are much greater for low-income households, particularly for those in drought-prone areas. This applies also to child nutritional welfare in these households.

The combined production and price effects translated into nutritional deterioration. Deficiencies in rural health services also played a key role in this context. As the recurrent drought had stripped many rural households of their asset base in the early 1980s, the main drought in 1984 immediately translated into a drastic nutrition problem. Many families were left with no ability to cope. Thus the observed parallel movement of prices and malnutrition on a month-by-month basis suggests that price information can be of only limited value as an "early" warning indicator when the asset base is already deteriorated. It also calls attention to the need to prevent extreme price instability in the interest of child nutritional welfare.

Assessment of child nutritional status in the post-famine period of 1986-1987, based on a large sample survey, shows a sizeable presence of child undernutrition, with significant variations across regions, locations, and seasons. Child characteristics (such as sex and age), frequency and type of food intake, human capital endowment (that is, mothers' education), health and sanitation environment, and incidence of disease are found to be important determinants of child malnutrition status. In addition, it is confirmed that cereal price increases not only significantly reduce household staple food consumption but also contribute to children's nutritional deterioration (weight for age). The combination of lack of food at the household level and acute diarrhoea in children results in life-threatening nutritional deterioration of large proportions of preschool children. This analysis, stressing policy action for nutritional improvement, requires that food availability, employment, and community health and sanitation be addressed simultaneously.

The 1984-1985 crisis uprooted large segments of the rural population and resulted in depletion of their assets and in stress migration into urban areas. Future food price explosions (in the context of another drought) will hit these people even more as wage earners without degrees of freedom to cope.

The evidence of the 1984-1985 famine confirms that drought is a major determining factor in famine in Sudan. Decline in the level of rainfall and its increased variability substantially undercut the food entitlement of large segments of the population through production and employment effects. The risk increased during the 1980s because of continued low and variable production, slow recovery in the asset base, permanent out-migration, and increased dependency on volatile rural markets. In fact, the new dynamics of famine make it much more difficult to identify and trace vulnerable groups on a continuous basis for policy targeting.

The microhousehold and community-level effects of specific projects and programmes aimed at reducing famine are reviewed on the basis of original survey information. This includes an assessment of food aid and relief management in Kordufan, asset-rebuilding programmes (including both food for tree-planting and livestock restocking), and agricultural-technology dissemination (in Darfur). In conclusion, from these project experiences. the critical role of sustainable food production in the rain-fed sector of Sudan is emphasized. The key components of such a strategy include improvement of resource conservation and management, development and dissemination of labour-augmenting technology, and promotion of human and physical infrastructure as well as institutional capacity. Relief and rehabilitation are necessary integrants of the whole development process.

Based on a review of past policies and problems, the study emphasizes a set of general policy priorities for famine prevention that include political stability, that is, an end to wars; participation of the rural population, especially through decentralization, in relief and rehabilitation; and macroeconomic policy reforms, especially of exchange-rate and pricing policies, and the control of inflation.

The specific policy priorities for famine prevention derived from the quantitative analysis include (1) promotion of sustainable growth in traditional rainfed agriculture through expansion of rural infrastructure; provision of labour-intensive public works programmes; input supply, with scope for private sector involvement; adaptive research, technology, and extension; and protection of the environment; and (2) emergency preparedness and relief with buffer stocks for price stabilization, improved relief management and early warning systems, strengthening of rural health and sanitation, and comprehensive legislation for famine prevention.

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