Tree nuts, including coconuts, are classified as “major allergens” under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA).
But a campaign is now underway to get coconuts off the list. Coconuts grow on trees and are called a nut, but they are not tree nuts nor are they much of an allergen.
The Texas-based Coconut Coalition of American (CCA) launched a campaign Monday to “make it clear that coconuts are not tree nut allergens.” The industry-led coalition plans to petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove the coconut from the list of “tree nuts” in the FALCPA Guidance Documents.
Out of more than 160 foods that can cause allergic reactions in some people, the “major food allergens” are responsible for 90 percent of those reactions.
The eight “major foods” identified by FALCPA:
- Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
- Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
- Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
Food labels must disclose ingredients or proteins from any of the major food allergens list under the FALCPA law. FDA added coconuts as a tree nut to the major food allergens list in 2006
The Coconut Coalition sees the FDA’s 2006 decision as a mistake. It says coconut reactions may occur, but many people allergic to tree nuts have found they can safely eat coconuts.
“The FDA misclassified coconut, which is causing confusion for a lot of people because it shouldn’t be classified with tree nuts,” says CCA Executive Director Len Monheit. “Consumers with a tree nut allergy, but not a coconut allergy, are being deprived of this fruit.”
Monheit also says the coconut industry has been “greatly impacted” by the unnecessary need to classify their facilities for “tree nuts.”
The Coconut Coalition, formed in 2017, launched the campaign with $25,000. It says it needs to raise another $80,000 over the next six months to support their petition to FDA.
The international Anaphylaxis Campaign is not too concerned about coconuts.
Its website says; “But the coconut is a member of the palm family and only distantly related to tree nuts. The botanical distance between coconuts and tree nuts would suggest that people with a tree nut allergy should be able to tolerate coconut and studies have shown that this is generally true. Therefore there is no general recommendation that patients with a tree nut allergy should avoid coconut.”
Misbranding allergens has become the most common reason for food recalls in recent years.
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