Cerebelly’s Commitment to High-Quality Ingredients.

Cerebelly uses only high-quality ingredients that deliver specific nutrients kids need while keeping bad stuff out. But what exactly does that mean? How does Cerebelly define “high quality?” What processes do we follow to make sure Cerebelly is the best it can be?
Here to answer these questions and more is Cerebelly’s Chief Product, Supply Chain, and Quality Officer Greg Peterson.
Let’s start at the beginning. Does Cerebelly choose all its farmers and suppliers itself?

We do! And that’s not always the case in the food manufacturing industry. The state of the industry today makes it really easy to have someone else pick your suppliers for you. You can just tell a manufacturing partner, “Make me some baby food using these ingredients,” and your manufacturer just selects all your farms and orders the ingredients, typically choosing lower cost over quality.

Cerebelly had that option as well, but we know that what we put into our kids is incredibly important. We take that responsibility very seriously, so we decided to select, vet, and rigorously test all our farmers and suppliers ourselves. We have dozens of ingredients—veggies, fruits, beans, grains, spices—that we use across all our flavors, and we’ve selected each farmer and supplier ourselves.

What we put into our kids is incredibly important. We take that responsibility very seriously.

What do you look for in a supplier?

First, we look for suppliers with the best reputations and highest quality standards. Then, we review their organic and non-GMO certifications as well as their food safety audits—documents that certify their processes are in line with those standards. But we also like to speak with each supplier and really get to know them. We visit as many farms and suppliers as possible! The best long-term partners for Cerebelly are the ones that embrace transparency, which is core to our company mission. 

We make our product here in California, so we try to stay close to home and look for farms in California, Oregon, and Washington to deliver as much of our produce as possible. Luckily, there are many amazing, organic farms out here! But if the very best, highest-quality, organic ground ginger comes from India, then that’s where we’ll get it! 

Sometimes farms produce different “grades” of produce. We always try to get the highest grade possible—the cleanest, freshest, safest, best ingredients, grown in accordance with the most rigorous standards. 

If we find a couple of farms we love that both grow an ingredient we need, say carrots, it sometimes comes down to a taste test! We’ll order carrots from the two farms, run a sample batch with each farm’s carrots, determine which is sweeter and more flavorful at that time of the year, and go with those! The Cerebelly team and our own little ones love doing the ingredient taste tests.

 

Do you only have one farmer supply each ingredient? 

No. Even if we’re only buying a particular ingredient from a single farm at that moment, we prefer to have a few farms or suppliers lined up and fully vetted for each of our ingredients. That way we can maintain access to great produce whenever we need it. It’s important to remember that farms are not factories. A farm may suffer a period of drought, for instance, and won’t have the amount of a fruit or veggie available that they planned. Or maybe the flavor of that veggie just isn’t as rich and good as usual. Then we rely on the other great farms we have teed up to ensure access to the very best, when we need it.

 

What about water?

Indeed! Let’s not forget about such a key ingredient! The water we mix in with some of our purees—the thicker ones like Pea Basil often need a little water—is tested regularly to make sure there’s no lead or heavy metals coming from it into our food.

 

Let’s talk about heavy metals. In 2018, Consumer Reports published an article on high levels of lead and other heavy metals in baby food. What does Cerebelly do to keep heavy metals low?

All our certified organic produce is free from pesticides—that’s what organic certification ensures—but heavy metals like lead are in our soils, air, and water. Just because a veggie is organic doesn’t mean it has low heavy metal content. It could have come from a small, beautiful, scenic organic farm. But if there’s an old barn near the field and long ago that barn was painted with lead paint, and that barn gets rained on, lead could be leaching into the soil of that organic field and find its way into veggies grown there. It’s a sad fact, but anything grown in the soil, if rain falls on it, can potentially have some level of heavy metals present.

High levels of heavy metals are linked to very bad outcomes for kids, so Cerebelly goes above and beyond here and takes many precautions to ensure our food has the lowest, safest levels possible.

For example, nutritional-powerhouse vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are susceptible to absorbing heavy metals in the soil, should any be present. For those ingredients, we require our farmers to run tests and agree to specifications for low heavy-metal content. But we don’t stop there, we test samples ourselves from each delivery of carrots, say, for lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic before we use that ingredient in any Cerebelly flavor. 

Then, after we make each batch of a particular flavor—and this can be literally thousands of finished baby food pouches—Cerebelly pulls random samples and sends them out to be independently tested to verify that all our standards have been met. We won’t release our products until all testing has been completed and they’ve passed our criteria.

Cerebelly takes many precautions to ensure our food has the lowest, safest levels of heavy metals possible.

What would you do if you did find a batch with high levels of lead or any other heavy metal?

We would throw it all away and not sell it.

Of course, we’ve yet to see unsafe levels of any heavy metal in any of our tests, or line trials, or production runs. And we’ve put all those previously mentioned processes in place to hopefully ensure that we never do. If it were to happen, we’re unequivocal in our position: We will throw it all away. 

 
Greg, you’ve been making healthy food and organic baby food for a long time. Is this the norm?

I’ve been in the food industry for more than 30 years, working to make good, healthy food. The processes Cerebelly has put in place are the most rigorous I’ve ever seen. The commitment to making sure the right nutrients are in the food and bad stuff is not in the food is very real. It’s really an honor to do this work.