From the field to baby’s plate: targeting maximum quality and safety
Between 4 and 6 months, the baby begins to broaden his food palate. It’s the age when he'll discover new textures and new flavors, with vegetables and fruit added to his diet, then meat and fish. This stage of food diversification is crucial if the child is to eat with pleasure and without fuss. For Materna, that means adapting each little dish to the child’s age by offering smooth purees in the beginning, then incorporating little morsels that melt in the mouth and finally larger morsels to initiate chewing.
Making these changes at baby's pace also demands balanced recipes using healthy foods, but also making sure that no undesirable particle ends up in his dish. Materna has set up draconian processes to make sure that safety never falters.
Food raw materials: uncompromising selection
To be a supplier of the raw materials used in the foods developed by Materna, the most rigorous hygiene and nutritional quality must be demonstrated for the products. Producers are audited both by Materna and by independent audit firms and must show that their raw materials are free of any contaminants or pollution and meet the regulatory requirements for nutritional content. The slightest deviation leads to the immediate and systematic return of the products in question.
Materna also scrupulously monitors the potential presence of undesirable elements in certain product categories. For example, onions are peeled by hand to prevent any onion skin from making its way into the prepared foods. As a general rule, operators sort the ingredients first on magnetic shaking tables, for example to separate tiny stones from lentils. The products are then finely milled to a degree suitable for the age of the child for which they are intended.
Materna is very exacting when it comes to meat and fish. The pieces of meat selected are 100% muscle. DNA tests are regularly conducted on animal products (meat and fish) to ensure their conformity with technical specifications. At the Montigny-Lengrain factory, 5% of the staff works full time on analyzing all of the raw materials received. No ingredient reaches the factory kitchens unless they have approved its quality.
No compromising in the kitchen!
Baby is a dinner guest who deserves very special attention. Recipes are carefully developed in Materna’s kitchens with a variety of ingredients such as fresh vegetables, starches, spices, aromatic herbs and meat to make a tasty meal. They are cooked by injecting steam to preserve all of the products’ nutritional and gustatory qualities. Once the recipe has been devised, a number of criteria are examined closely, such as viscosity, the number of morsels and solids. The allergen risk is also addressed throughout the manufacturing process to avoid cross-contamination.
This is followed by the filling phase, either in rigid containers (jars, bowls or plates) or in flexible containers (pouches). Residual air is removed by injecting nitrogen, a neutral gas, to prevent oxidation of the meal over time. The container is then sealed with an impervious film that filters out light and oxygen. Additional checks are carried out on the conveyors in the factory to ensure that no foreign body ends up in the child’s dinner plate. The meal then goes through a series of other verifications, such as the product’s base weight. Its last station is a special rotary sterilizer, which ensures optimum heat penetration throughout the products.
Meanwhile, the quality laboratory takes samples at various locations in the production line for a taste test of the meals' organoleptic qualities. The samples also undergo physical and chemical tests such as viscosity, pH and number of morsels. The strength of the seal is also tested. The samples are then confined in heat chambers for several days. If the results do not conform to specifications, all of the batches are removed from the production process and destroyed. The meals are not shipped to the order-givers until Materna has completed all of the various checks, with positive results. Only then will baby be able to enjoy his meal.