March 2020

Government Chemist and Institute of Global Food Security (QUB) collaborate on coconut water authenticity

Coconut water is an increasingly popular product, sold often as a drink to consumers. Water from young coconuts is most often preferred, but there are difficulties preserving its delicate flavor and properties in a long supply chain, while mature coconuts are more commonly harvested for a variety of purposes not directly related to coconut water production. How can buyersensure they are buying the genuine article, as a consumer or as a business?

That was the question posed by Julia Glotz in an article in ‘The Grocer’ in 2016 with input from the Government Chemist. The article prompted Queens University Belfast student Emma-Lee Johnston to take up the challenge, supervised by Institute of Global Food Security (QUB) Emeritus Professor Duncan Thorburn Burns and Dr Michael Walker in the Government Chemist team at LGC.

The outcome has been published in the Journal of AOAC International, titled, “Authenticity and the Potability of Coconut Water- A Critical Review”

The findings are open access and discuss factors on the stability of coconut water, advice to food analysts, and other insights, including:

  • Coconut water is prized for its delicate flavour when fresh.
  • Dramatic increases in global demand may jeopardise its authenticity.
  • Its typical composition and methods to verify its integrity are suggested and a weight of evidence approach should be taken to assess coconut water authenticity
  • In particular sight of local standards and AIJN1 acceptability criteria for coconut water is essential for an opinion on a sample of coconut water.
  • Experimental exploration of the use of the carbon isotope ratio of extracted protein as an internal standard for carbon SIRMS should be undertaken.

Michael Walker, Head of the Government Chemist programme, said: “It is relatively unusual for a final year undergraduate project to result in a peer-reviewed paper. This shows how diligent Emma-Lee was and the benefits of the IGFS-Government Chemist joint supervision. The Government Chemist is now in a much stronger position to assess coconut water authenticity.”

The full article can be found here.

1 AIJN, the European Fruit Juice Association, https://aijn.eu/en/about-us