A lot of you have had questions for me about coconut products, particularly because coconut oil shows up in so many foods such as popcorn, ice cream and many other foods.
Because of the name, many people believe that coconuts are nuts. In fact, they are a fruit. So if you have an allergy to nuts, you don't necessarily have to avoid coconut. For some odd reason, the FDA has recently put coconut under the umbrella of "tree nut." This is not helping with the confusion people have about nut allergies.
Big medical disclaimer: you can be allergic to coconut. If your doctor has advised you to avoid coconut, please do so. You can be allergic to fruits. So ask your allergist before giving an allergic person any food.
OK, with that out of the way: my message is that coconut is not a tree nut. If you or your tree nut/peanut-allergic child enjoy the taste and you don't have a fruit allergy, you can eat products that contain coconut or coconut oil--provided they don't also have a nut allergy warning or if there are other cross-contact concerns (such as the food was made lines with nut-containing foods, etc.).
My kids and I like the taste of coconut--in cookies, cakes and sorbets. Also, coconut cream or milk can be a great substitute for dairy in recipes, if you have a dairy allergy. Click this link for a blog entry I posted recently that contains a dairy-free, nut-free ice cream recipe using coconut cream.
A lot of you may not like coconut, but since people with nut allergies already have several limitations on what we can eat, I thought that it's nice to expand the list a little bit.
As always, if you're unsure of what's safe for your particular situation, ask your allergist!