Episode 70: Setting the Record Straight About Coconuts with Traci Kantowski

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The Produce Moms Podcast

“The Coconut Coalition of the Americas was founded in order to fight the negative perceptions of coconuts resulting from false reports.” – Traci Kantowski (2:35 – 2:45)

Traci Kantowski, of the Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA), has over eighteen years of marketing communications experience in corporate and non-profit sectors. She’s leading the CCA’s communication efforts to develop educational materials, promote the organization throughout social media, conduct media outreach. 

The Coconut Coalition of the Americas

The Coconut Coalition of the Americas (CCA) consists of coconut manufacturers, growers, and various other stakeholders. Its purpose is  to combat the negative perceptions that result from false reports about health risks. The CCA is currently focused on removing coconuts from the FDA’s list of major food allergens. 

They educate the public about the numerous health benefits of coconuts and coconut oil. Coconut water is delicious, and it’s rich in electrolytes needed for hydration. Coconut oil is a healthy source of dietary fat, low in calories, and can add flavor to most of your meals. 

What’s So Great About Coconuts?

Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which can kill harmful bacteria and viruses. Coconut also promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and it might support brain health. If that wasn’t enough, you could use it topically for healthy, supple skin. So, why does the CCA need to fight negative perceptions about coconuts?

The FDA’s Major Food Allergens List and FALCPA

The FDA identified the foods that are responsible for 90 percent of the food allergies that people have. Things like milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and others. 

In August 2004, they enacted the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) to help consumers avoid these foods. 

“The biggest thing hurting the produce industry is a perpetual state of consumer confusion. Sometimes, we can’t even get the labeling right to identify food items correctly.” – Lori Taylor (8:14 – 8:42)

The FALCPA is a critical resource for many people that live with food allergies because they have no cure, and the health consequences can be severe.

Coconuts have been wrongly classified as tree nuts. In fact, they’re in a similar category as cherries, plums, and many others.

This has had a cascading effect on consumers and manufacturers of coconut products. Even if a coconut product doesn’t contain tree nuts, manufacturers of products that contain coconut still have to mention that it includes tree nuts in the labeling. As a result, people with tree nut allergies avoid coconuts. 

Manufacturers may avoid using coconuts so they don’t have to avoid mentioning tree nuts on their labels. They might use palm oil, which has more calories and is less beneficial to health than coconut oil.

There may be some individuals who have minor allergic reactions to coconuts, but that’s no different from other fruits. Some people have allergies strawberries, watermelons, bananas, and other common fruits. But, most people who have tree nut allergies can safely consume coconuts and enjoy the health benefits they provide. 

What the CCA is Doing to Update the FALCPA

The CCA is focused on spreading the message that coconuts aren’t tree nuts. They’re  working with allergen advocacy groups to set the record straight about coconuts.

But, the most significant project they’ve undertaken is the Allergen project. It’s a citizen petition to remove coconuts from the FDA list of allergens. It’s also one of the best ways to get the FDA’s attention because they’re legally required to respond to citizen petitions. 

“People with food allergies already have to limit what they can consume. It’s a shame if they have to miss out on the beneficial nutrients available in coconuts.” – Traci Kantowski (12:31 – 12:43)

If you’re interested in being a part of correcting a mistake that’s preventing countless people from enjoying the benefits of coconuts, please take the time to visit the CCA and support their efforts today.

[bctt tweet=”Traci Kantowski of The Coconut Coalition of the Americas sets the record straight about #coconuts, why they shouldn’t be on the FDA’s list of food allergens, and their health benefits.” username=”theproducemom”]

How to get involved

  • Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week! 
  • For more information about coconuts, and to support the Allergen Project citizen’s petition, visit the Coconut Coalition of the Americas.

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About Lori

Lori Taylor is the Founder & CEO of The Produce Moms. For ten years she sold fresh produce to over 300 grocery stores throughout the United States, and today she is fully focused on working with the produce supply chain, media, and government to increase fresh produce access & consumption in the US and around the globe. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.

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