The Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA) has launched an initiative to remove coconut from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s list of tree nuts, which are considered major food allergens under federal legislation.
The Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was enacted to ensure that the labels of food products effectively inform consumers if they contain any of the eight major food allergens — milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans — that account for 90 percent of food allergies.
Coconuts were not specifically included in that law, but in 2006, the FDA issued a guidance document on FALCPA with a list of what FDA considered to be "tree nuts" that included coconut (Cocos nucifera).
However, coconuts are not considered botanical nuts. They’re drupes, or fruits in which a fleshy outer part surrounds a pit or stone. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology notes allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, but most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut.
The CCA plans to submit a citizens’ petition to the FDA requesting it revise the FALCPA guidance document.
"The FDA misclassified coconut, which is causing confusion for a lot of people because it shouldn't be classified with tree nuts," said CCA Executive Director Len Monheit. "Consumers with a tree nut allergy, but not a coconut allergy, are being deprived of this fruit. And, industry is being greatly impacted as contract manufacturers wanting to use coconut have to unnecessarily classify their facility as a tree nut facility when they're not."