Government Chemist and IGFS (QUB) Collaborate on Coconut Water Authenticity

The GC team and the Institute for Global Food Security at Queens University Belfast have collaborated on a review of methods and issues related to determining the authenticity of coconut water

Coconut water is a popular drink. The best-tasting water is from young coconuts but it is difficult to preserve its delicate flavour and properties in a long supply chain.

Mature coconut harvest predominates for a variety of purposes which are not directly related to coconut water production. How can you be assured that you are buying the genuine article, whether 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. It prompted a young student, Emma-Lee Johnston, to take up the challenge, supervised by IGFS emeritus Professor Duncan Thorburn Burns and Dr Michael Walker in the Government Chemist team.

The outcome has just been published: Authenticity and the Potability of Coconut Water- a critical review.

The findings are open access so you can read the full paper but the takeaway messages are:

  • 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 the European Fruit Juice Association AIJN 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 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.