By Allergen Bureau

Does Prevalence of Coconut Allergy Warrant Labelling Requirements? 

Despite requiring labelling under the US food allergen labelling laws due to being regarded as ‘tree nuts’, little is known about the prevalence and severity of coconut allergy. Findings from a recent US population survey have prompted further analysis. 

A total of 78,851 survey responses were received from a randomised section of the US population. Of these, 0.39 per cent were assessed as having convincing coconut allergy. Once analysed by age and extrapolated into general population terms, the findings indicate that 0.2% of children and about 0.4% of adults have a coconut allergy. However, only a fraction of the overall cases were based on confirmed diagnoses made by a doctor, suggesting that coconut allergy is currently under diagnosed. 

While these prevalence rates are not as high as other tree nut allergies or other major allergies requiring labelling, they are similar to rates of sesame allergy. Sesame has only recently been included in US allergen labelling laws because of the rates of sesame allergy prevalence. 

In this context, the authors suggest that coconut should not be removed from the list of important allergens included under US allergen labelling requirements. 

Knowing that early exposure through compromised skin barriers may heighten the risk of sensitisation and subsequent allergic reactions, the study authors hypothesised that a rise in coconut allergy prevalence may be related to increases use of coconut-based products in skincare and food over recent years. 

Reference: Warren C, et al. 2023. Prevalence and burden of coconut allergy in the United States. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. Vol. 131(5) pp. 645-654.e2. DOI:10.1016/j.anai.2023.08.017 

Additional reporting:  Q&A: The Need to Better Understand Coconut Allergy Prevalence & Severity