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Tree-nut allergy questions (coconut? palm oil?)

Posted By Alison On Dec 1, 2008 @ In Peanuts/Nuts Allergy | 79 Comments

Tree-nut allergy confusion? Hope this helps…

Is coconut considered a tree nut?

There is conflicting information on whether coconut must be avoided by people who are allergic to tree nuts.

Coconut has not in the past been considered a tree nut, but in 2006, the FDA began to define coconut as a tree nut. However, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, “the available medical literature contains documentation of a small number of allergic reactions to coconut; most occurred in people who were not allergic to other tree nuts. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid coconut.”

According to Allergy New Zealand, “coconuts are not tree nuts but are monocotyledonous plants of the palm family Arecaceae. Nut bearing trees, on the other hand, are dicots and are only distantly related to the palm species. Coconut rarely causes allergy. Most allergists will not suggest coconut avoidance unless there has been an allergic reaction to coconut.”

My daughter, who is allergic to cashews (and we don’t know yet about other tree nuts), eats coconut. We have never avoided it and never had a problem. I think that some people may have a coconut allergy in addition to a tree nut allergy, but whether the two are related remains unclear.

What about palm oil?

A friend told me that a pie she saw in a store had on the ingredient label “palm oil (a tree nut allergen)”. This is a case of the manufacturer not understanding what constitutes an tree-nut allergen, because palm oil does not come from a tree nut.

Palm oil comes from directly from the tree but has nothing to do with a tree nut. In addition, palm oil does not contain any [tree nut] proteins to which people are allergic. I verified this fact on the phone with FAAN. Palm oil is safe for tree-nut allergic individuals, unless they also have an allergy to palm oil (highly unlikely). [Correction: I meant to say that palm oil does not contain any tree nut proteins, but someone could be allergic to palm oil as a separate allergy from tree nuts.]

Is a water chestnut a nut?

A chestnut is a nut, but a water chestnut is a vegetable. No problem for the tree-nut allergic!

Does nutmeg come from a nut?

Nutmeg comes from the seeds of a tropical tree. It is not a nut and therefore safe for nut-allergic people. Someone might be allergic to nutmeg for other reasons, but a nutmeg allergy is probably rare.

Any other questions? Comment below and I will try to answer!

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