‘Lambanog from legitimate distillers never poisonous’
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Coconut Lambanog Distillers Association (Cocolambda) has assured that lambanog (coconut wine) made by licensed distillers is safe to drink and can “never be poisonous.”

Cocolambda issued the statement following the cases of methanol poisoning and deaths attributed to lambanog.  Several residents from Candelaria town in Quezon province died allegedly after drinking lambanog.

“Genuine coconut lambanog can never be poisonous due to the fact that the maximum percentage of methanol that can be produced from distilling a fermented coconut sap is only two percent which is separated from the lambanog beverage during distillation,” Cocolambda president Alfredo Amorado said.

“As such, the 11.4 to 18.2 percent reported methanol content found in the samples gathered by the Food and Drug Administration may be a result of adulteration and not from the naturally-produced lambanog from fermented coconut sap or toddy,” he added.

Coconut wine or lambanog, dubbed as the Philippine Vodka, is natural and chemical-free alcoholic liquor obtained from distillation of naturally fermented coconut sap.

It is known for its high alcohol content and potency and it contains a minimum of 30 percent alcohol.  It can be used as base liquor to other flavored spirits and cocktail concoctions.

As lambanog comes from the distilled sap of the unopened coconut flower, the Philippine Coconut Authority is taking extra measures to protect the image of the industry for the farmers to take good care of their coconut trees.

Coconut products are the country’s biggest agricultural exports and source of employment and livelihood.

“The PCA through its regional office in Lucena City has been actively coordinating with the concerned local government units and FDA to help address the problem besetting the lambanog industry in Calabarzon,” PCA said.

PCA officer-in-charge administrator Roel Rosales enjoins the public to buy lambanog only from FDA-licensed and PCA-registered producers and retailers.

Rosales has formed a technical working to work closely with the FDA and other concerned government agencies to ensure the safety of the general public.

Lambanog production entails the fermentation of coconut sap and distillation of the coconut wine produced from fermentation. The distillation of coconut wine produces two types of alcohol: the methanol, which is a side product, and the ethanol.

Methanol is toxic and must be discarded. The small amount in lambanog is being addressed by the implementation of the Philippine national standard for lambanog, which significantly limits the methanol content to minimal as excess of it can cause immediate hazard to health.

The lambanog industry is a century old and one of the traditional coconut-based industries of the country particularly in the Southern Tagalog area.

In the late 1990s, the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology collaborated with the three biggest lambanog distilleries of the country to standardize the distillation process.

The collaboration improved the quality of the product, prompting exports of lambanog to Taiwan and Cambodia in 2001.

Since then, it has enjoyed increasing exposure and popularity in the international arena because it is an organic product and makes a unique addition to the liquor market.

Although lambanog has an increasing international market, exports had been minimal in volume due to issues and concerns on the local production, PCA said.

However, a local lambanog brand, Lakan, won medals in all eight international wine and spirit competitions it joined over the last three years.

“The international awards clearly show that genuine lambanog is a great drink and not poisonous,” PCA said.

The government likewise urged the public to take extra caution in purchasing and consuming products such as alcoholic beverages that do not have proper labels.

LAMBANOG
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