Rice up to the occasion: Nestle’s opens first Gerber factory in China and tackles toxicity report
The Nutripuff products are rice-based snacks which are available in organic and non-organic versions with eight flavours.
Recently, a Healthy Babies Bright Futures had reported that 95% of baby foods in the US contained some form of toxic heavy metals, and that rice-based puff snacks were most susceptible.
The baby foods tested came from a wide range of brands, including Gerber, Earth's Best, and Beech-Nut.
According to the study, one in four baby foods contained all four metals included in the study - arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.
However, Binu Jacob, senior vice president of infant nutrition business unit for Nestle Greater China, emphasised the quality and safety standards that were in place at the new RMB 100 million (US$14 million) factory in Shuangcheng, Harbin.
The site has an annual production capacity of around 1,400 tons.
Jacob explained: “In China, we perform over 40 tests on raw material and more than 60 tests on finished products, which are far more than what’s required by government regulation.
“The quality control of our new Nutripuff plant begins with the clean field farming standard for the rice that we source locally in Heilongjiang, ensuring high-quality from the very source of the ingredients for the infant supplements,
All of our foods for children not only meet our global safety and quality standards but also are compliant to China National Standards, which are one of the strictest rules and regulations in the world.”
According to Nestle, the Akitakomati rice used in the puff is obtained from the Songnen Plain in Heilongjiang Province, which is watered by the Nenjiang River.
“From seed selection, sowing, field management, harvesting, drying and storage to processing, a dedicated agricultural team provides technical guidance and supervision to ensure safety and traceability,” Nestle said.
The rice is then sent to the Gerber factory for processing within 24 hours after hulling to ensure the rice retained its nutritious value.
Safety comes first
According to database company Statista, China’s baby food market was valued at US$18 million in 2019, where rising spending power had widened the reach of packaged infant food.
Jacob told us that China’s baby food market had been growing at double digit rates in recent years.
Apart from the Nutripuffs, Gerber also retails infant cereal and fruit and vegetable purees in China.