In response to valid regulatory concerns of the potential risk of Clostridium botulinum in coconut water, Avure Technologies commissioned the Institute for Food Safety and Health in Bedford Park, IL to investigate if fresh coconut water with pH above 4.6 can support the growth and toxin production of non-proteolytic and proteolytic strains of C. botulinum at 4 oC and 10 oC. The results from the just completed comprehensive study indicate that spores of strains of C. botulinum are unable germinate, grow and produce toxin in fresh coconut water, alleviating any potential concern of botulism.
“Since it is well known that high pressure processing (HPP) does not inactivate C. botulinum spores, this study investigated the potential for spores to germinate, grow and produce toxin by proteolytic and nonproteolytic C. botulinum in both filtered and unfiltered fresh coconut water treated with HPP and stored for 45 days,” says Dr. Errol Raghubeer (pictured), senior vice president microbiology and technology at Avure.
Although there was an increase in the total anaerobic count during the 45 days of storage, none of these samples showed toxin production.
“While we agree that there is the potential for C. botulinum contamination in coconut water, this comprehensive study proves to us that HPP, combined with potential natural elements found in coconut water, is an effective food safety measure,” Dr. Raghubeer said. “It is likely that naturally occurring inhibitory compound or compounds in coconut water, make C. botulinum unable to germinate, grow or produce toxin, or that coconut water lacks certain key ingredients to promote growth and toxin production of C. botulinum. HPP of coconut water is a viable process for the inactivation of other vegetative pathogens of concern such as L. monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli.”
With proper temperature control, HPP remains the preferred method for treating coconut water to ensure food safety while maintaining the best flavor and keeping nutrients intact.
Data from this study will be made available to processors to use when discussing food safety issues with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory officials.