So for what reason are coconuts on the FDA’s tree-nut allergy list? One explanation might be culinary purposes – to classify them as anything other than just another nut or seed would make it difficult for people with severe allergies who want access to bakeries and cookshops where these products can be found without fear they’ll cause adverse effects reactions in those prone towards such symptoms.
The most common reason I heard was that there’s no botanical difference between almond skins which could also fall under this category since they’re used primarily outside of the almond itself. Therefore, to keep it simple, they all get classified as tree nuts even though technically, this is not the case.
Most at risk are people with peanut and shellfish allergies since both these allergens come from plants (i.e., legumes & crustaceans) under the same classification of trees.
Keeping it simple
Food-allergic consumers would arguably be more confusing if separate lists for “true” nuts, drupes, and seeds.
Nuts are organic products made out of a hard shell containing the generally edible seed. In this case, we have chestnuts and acorns that can be eaten raw or cooked in many different ways.
You can eat the seed of a peach or cherry pit without harming yourself, but if you bite into an almond’s hardshell, it could be painful for your mouth.
Seeds are tiny, microscopic plants enclosed in a harsh seed coat. In nature, they grow and develop into mature versions of their parent with unique traits determined by the genes within them.
The science texts might distinguish between these different fruits and seeds, but our recipe books usually do not. Consumers often refer to them as “nuts,” though coconut’s culinary-allergen classification makes it fit more comfortably into this category than others.
The truth is, the FDA warning label on products containing coconut ingredients makes sense for people with tree-nut allergies. And it should be taken seriously even though coconut isn’t technically a nut, drupe, or seed under strict botanical definitions.
When individuals are set off by a food other than whatever they fostered a sensitivity to, this can happen when various food varieties contain comparative allergenic protein structures that cause allergic reactions in some individuals but not others.
This is why some people who are allergic to latex can also react to bananas and avocados. The proteins in latex are similar in structure to those in those fruits. This is also why people with peanut allergies sometimes respond to other legumes like lentils and soybeans – they contain some of the same allergens as peanuts.
Some people who were allergic to coconut also reacted positively to walnuts and hazelnuts. This suggests that the same allergy-triggering proteins are present in both, which could mean an individual with a nut allergy might cross-react if they’re sensitive towards coconuts as well, or someone sensitized from eating one type of tree may develop sensitivity at another nearby species such was discovered by researchers recently.
The takeaway is that while the FDA warning label on products containing coconut ingredients makes sense for people with tree-nut allergies, it should be taken seriously even though coconut isn’t technically a nut, drupe, or seed under strict botanical definitions. The scientific reasons why coconuts are often included in lists of tree nuts are compelling.
Though uncommon for people to experience response from this combination, I would recommend caution if you are allergic or sensitive to any nuts in general; however, don’t worry because we have plenty more products.
“While hypersensitive responses to coconut have been reported, a great many people who are sensitive to tree nuts can securely eat coconut. If you’re concerned about a possible reaction and want more information on how it affects your body or allergies in general, visit The American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.”
Coconuts are often included in lists of tree nuts due to their scientific similarity to other nut varieties. While hypersensitive responses to coconut have been recorded, a great many people who are susceptible to tree nuts can securely eat coconut if you’re concerned about a possible comeback and want more information on how it affects your body or allergies in general.