Coconut Industry Development Project for the Caribbean
Safety and Quality in Coconut Water Bottling Operations

Safety and Quality in Coconut Water Bottling Operations

WHAT IS QUALITY?

• Quality includes all the factors or characteristics that are used to decide whether a product is good or not.

• A product that is not of acceptable quality must not be sold since it could be unsafe and make the consumer ill.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR FACTORS THAT IMPACT ON COCONUT WATER QUALITY?

Pre- and post-harvest factors, as well as storage conditions, can negatively impact on the quality of coconut water.
Pre-harvest factors

• Contamination by pesticide residues – These result from the use of pesticides during production of the coconut.

• Contamination with heavy metals – Heavy metals could enter coconut water through soil or water contamination and can cause illness.
Post-harvest factors

• Contamination by microorganisms – Microorganisms could enter coconut water through improper post-harvest handling and processing techniques.

How do microorganisms contribute to spoilage of coconut water?

– Microorganisms feed on the sugars in coconut water and produce acid and gas, thus causing it to ferment;

– Microorganisms contribute to breakdown of the fat present in coconut water and cause it to turn rancid;

– Microorganisms contribute to the breakdown of the small quantities of protein in coconut water, and cause it to have the smell of sulphur.

• Storage conditions of the coconut post-harvest – High temperature stimulates the respiratory rate of the coconut post-harvest, leading to rapid quality deterioration of the water within the intact coconut.

• Storage conditions of bottled coconut water – High temperature increases the rate of microbial growth within the bottled product, thereby reducing its shelf-life.

HOW CAN THE QUALITY AND SAFETY OF COCONUT WATER BE ASSESSED?

At home/ in the absence of a laboratory?

• By observing the appearance of the product – is the product clear in appearance? – does it appear to be fermenting (this means producing gas within the bottle)? – are there any foreign objects, e.g. hair, insect parts, dirt particles in the product?

• By noting the smell – does it smell rancid? – does it smell like sulphur? In the laboratory?

• By chemical testing – for pesticide residues – for heavy metals – by measuring the free fatty acid content.

• By monitoring the physiochemical properties – measuring the pH – measuring the brix – measuring the level of turbidity (i.e. the cloudiness of the product)

• By microbiological testing – to determine the number of microorganisms present in a sample of the product; – to determine the types of microorganisms that are present.

WHAT ARE SOME QUALITY SPECIFICATIONS FOR BOTTLED COCONUT WATER?

Coconut water of good drinking quality is colorless and clear in appearance. Specifications of an acceptable product are as follows:
Physiochemical Characteristics

pH 5 – 5.4

Brix 5 – 6.5

Microbiological Limits

Total Aerobic Plate Count/mL – Less than 5000

Coliform / mL- Less than 10

Faecal Coliform / mL – Nil

The microbiological count (or total aerobic count) gives an indication of the wholesomeness of the product, while the coliform count gives an indication of the level of hygiene used in processing and packaging of the product. Pathogenic microorganisms such as faecal coliforms are potentially harmful to the consumer and are, therefore, not tolerated in coconut water.

HOW CAN THE SAFETY AND QUALITY OF COCONUT WATER BE ASSURED?

By applying good practice in order to avoid contamination and temperature abuse at every step of the processing chain.

WHAT IS GOOD PRACTICE?

Procedures learnt from experience and verified by scientific testing. Good practice – is science-based; – is constantly being improved; – is cost-effective; – ensures the production of safe high-quality products

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