IGFS collaborates with Government Chemist on coconut-water authenticity
The office of the UK Government Chemist and the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's have partnered on a review of methods and issues related to determining the authenticity of commercial coconut water.
Coconut water is a popular drink. The best-tasting water is from young coconuts but it is difficult to preserve its delicate flavor 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 Queen's University student, Emma-Lee Johnston, to take up the challenge, supervised by emeritus Professor Duncan Thorburn Burns from the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen's and Dr Michael Walker in the Government Chemist team.
Ms Johnston has since graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition from the School of Biological Sciences and is now working as an International Food Technologist at the high-end food emporium, Fortnum & Mason, but her research has just been published: Authenticity and the Potability of Coconut Water- a critical review
The findings are open-access and 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
Dr Walker from GC 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. We are now in a much stronger position to assess coconut-water authenticity."