I have come across this curious question over the past few weeks. I noticed that some of the manufacturers of foods that we have been sampling have been informing us that their facilities are nut free except for coconut.
Initially, I thought, coconut is not a tree nut so why is this relevant? I decided to look into it to fully understand why it was being mentioned.
It turns out that the FDA decided to place coconut on the list of tree nuts several years ago. It is unclear why the FDA moved to make coconut a tree nut but I had never heard of or seen any overlap between tree nut allergy and coconut allergy so I decided to do the research as well as ask some experts. Our allergists and customer advisory council members were incredibly helpful.
The coconut is not a true nut at all. Here is a very helpful explanation of what a coconut is:
Is a coconut a fruit, nut or seed?
Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, also known as a dry drupe.
A drupe is a fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed (like a peach or olive) and comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive.
More importantly, scientists have studied whether there is an association between tree nut allergy and coconut allergy and have found none. A study published in the Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Journal and done at our wonderful Boston Children’s Hospital concluded that:
Children with peanut or tree nut sensitization were more likely to be sensitized to sesame but not coconut.
Based on this information as well as the expert opinions of several allergists, I would like to clarify our criteria for our Nut Allergy and Top 8 Allergy TasterieBoxes:
Our Nut Allergy and Top 8 Allergy TasterieBoxes only use products reported by the manufacturer to be made in nut-free facilities, but these facilities may also process coconut. None of our Nut Allergy and Top 8 Allergy TasterieBoxes contain coconut as a listed ingredient.