Title

Microbiological Evaluation of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) Production in the Philippines

Date of Award

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. rer, nat. Crisanto M. Lopez

Abstract

Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO) is gaining popularity in recent years because of its beneficial properties that have several applications in food, cosmetics, and medicine. The Philippines is one of the leading exporters of VCO in the world. Some of the most common VCO production techniques in the industry are centrifugation, high-pressure expeller method, and natural fermentation method. To date, there is a lack of studies regarding the microbiology of VCO production. This research aims to determine the microbial quality and safety of VCO collected during production. Samples were collected from each identified production step from two production runs of nine VCO producers. Samples were analyzed for Aerobic Plate Count (APC), Yeast and Mold Count (YMC), Total and Fecal/Thermotolerant Coliform, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella species, and Listeria monocytogenes. Microbial counts were very high at the start of the production (eg. grated coconut meat, coconut milk) with APC up to >5.9 x106 CFU/mL. After several processing steps, APC, YMC and coliforms were considerably reduced. Pathogenic bacteria were detected in some samples collected from various steps of the production. However, all finished VCO products tested negative for these bacteria. No sample was positive for L. monocytogenes. Only three out of 17 finished VCO products analyzed passed the 2007 Philippine National Standard (PNS) for VCO; all others failed in either or both the APC and YMC standards. Mishandling by the workers, and biofilm formation in the equipment and containers may be the sources of the microorganisms. Producers should follow good manufacturing practices to ensure production of high quality VCO with microbial counts that pass the PNS for VCO.

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