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Coconut Oil Processing : The Potential For Improvement

The paper reviews the research carried out under a 3-year project funded by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), the Department for International Development (DFID) and collaborators in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Tanzania, Cote d'lvoire and Ghana. Five coconut processing methods were investigated: aqueous processing, ram pressmg, intermediate moisture content, waste heat recovery technology and hot oil immersion drying (HOID) technology. The potential for gaining both quantitative and qualitative improvements for each of the methods is assessed. Hot oil immersion drying of coconuts is highlighted as a method for producing coconut oil without the need to produce copra. Underdried copra is readily attacked by moulds dunng storage, particularly Aspergillus flavus, which can lead to contamination by the carcinogenic mycotoxin, aflatoxin. Some of this aflatoxin is destroyed during crushing for oil but around 30% can remain in the oilcake. The small amounts of aflatoxin which remain in the oil are removed during the refining process. If copra is prepared using smoke kilns, the incidence of mould growth and subsequent aflatoxin production is reduced. However, the smoke can lead to the production of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), another group of carcinogenic compounds which can be carried through into oil after crushing. The removal of PAH adds to refining costs. HOID offers an attractive alternative to avoid both contaminants by elimmating the copra manufacturing stage.

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