Thirteen-year-old Reese Langer enjoyed camping, swimming, and volunteering, and was a proud cheerleader. The Eagle, Idaho, cheerleader had a regular habit of checking foods that possibly contained walnuts, her food allergen. However, while attending a cheer banquet in May of 2021, Langer ate a dessert that she believed was safe, had a severe allergic reaction, and died four days later (Salo, 2021).

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI, 2022), tree nuts are one of the top allergens most known for causing anaphylaxis. Tree nut allergy is caused by the protein within the nut binding to certain IgE antibodies within the allergic individual’s body after consuming the tree nut. A histamine is then released and the individual’s system triggers an allergic reaction, which can vary in symptoms and intensity (FARE, 2022).

Tree nut allergy sufferers consist of between 0.5 and 1 percent of the US population (ACAAI, 2022). Two percent of children are allergic to tree nuts and usually carry the allergy into adulthood (FARE, 2022). Less than 10 percent of those with a tree nut allergy will outgrow it (ACAAI, 2022). 

Four Considerations for Tree Nuts at Camp

While protein-laden (often with nuts) trail mix is a favorite summer camp snack, nut-filled baked goods like cookies, brownies, pecan pie, and rugelach are holiday staples during fall and winter months, especially Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Prepare for holiday and winter season camps/retreats with precautions for guests with tree nut/peanut allergies.

I. Most Common Tree Nut Allergies

Familiarize your staff with the six most common tree nut allergies:

  1. Cashew
  2. Walnut
  3. Hazelnut
  4. Almond
  5. Pistachio
  6. Pecan

In the US, cashew is the most prominent tree nut allergy, and walnut is number two (Shaikh, 2021).

II. Greater Risk of Other Nut/Peanut Allergies

Approximately 50 percent of children with an allergy to a particular tree nut are also allergic to another tree nut (FARE, 2022). In addition, an estimated 40 percent of children with tree nut allergies also have an allergy to peanuts (FARE, 2022). Peanuts are in the same family as beans, lentils, and peas; they are not actually nuts but legumes, which are edible seeds in enclosed pods. Peanuts grow underground, whereas tree nuts grow on trees. However, the protein structure in peanuts and tree nuts is similar, which can cause peanut-allergic individuals to also be allergic to tree nuts (Food Insight, 2018; KidsHealth, 2022).

III. Disagreement over Coconut Classification

Be aware that authorities disagree on the classification of the coconut as a tree nut. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially categorizes the coconut as a tree nut (FDA, 2016). In contrast, food scientists say that despite its nut-like shell, the coconut is not actually a nut, but rather the seed of a drupaceous fruit or stone fruit (CocoGoodsCo., 2020). Because a small number of people with tree nut allergies have a rare allergy to coconut, health experts recommend doctor approval before consuming coconut (Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, 2022). Follow-up on doctor notes on site for the tree nut allergic camper or staff member before serving coconut products is advisable.

IV. Consider Omitting Products Altogether

Seriously consider omitting all tree nut products from your camp kitchen. Post the following tree nut avoidance lists on your kitchen wall and use them for training. 

Tree Nut Allergen Avoidance Lists

  • Almond
  • Anacardium nut
  • Argan oil
  • Artificial nuts
  • Beechnut
  • Black walnut
  • Black walnut hull extract (flavoring)
  • Brazil nut
  • Bush nut
  • Butternut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Chinquapin nut
  • *Coconut
  • Filbert (Hazelnut)
  • Gianduja (a chocolate/nut mixture)
  • Gingko nut
  • Hazelnut
  • Hickory nut
  • Karite (shea nut)
  • Litchi/lichee/lychee nut
  • Macadamia nut
  • Mandelonas
  • Marzipan/almond paste
  • Mashuga nut
  • Nangai nut
  • Natural nut extract (e.g., almond, walnut, etc. Artificial extracts are usually safe)
  • Nut butters (e.g., almond butter, cashew butter)
  • Nut distillates/alcoholic extracts
  • Nut flours
  • Nutella
  • Nut meal
  • Nut meat
  • Nut milk (e.g., almond milk, cashew milk)
  • Nut oils (e.g., walnut oil, almond oil)
  • Nut pastes
  • Nut pieces
  • Pecan
  • Pesto
  • Pili nut
  • Pine nut (aka Indian nut, pignoli, pignolia, pignon, pinon, and pinyon nut)
  • Pistachio
  • Praline
  • Shea nut
  • Walnut
  • Walnut hull extract (flavoring)
  • White walnuts

(FARE, 2022)

Other Names for Tree Nuts

  • Anacardium nuts
  • Mandelonas (a nut-flavored peanut confection)
  • Nut meats
  • Queensland nut (macadamia)

May Contain Tree Nuts

  • Alcoholic beverages, such as Frangelico, amaretto liqueurs and others
  • Baked goods such as biscotti, cakes, cookies, crackers, donuts, granola bars, pastries and pies, baklava, baking mixes
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Candies, such as calissons, mandelonas, marzipan, some chocolates, chocolate bars
  • Cereals, granola, muesli
  • Cold cuts
  • Energy bars/protein bars
  • Ethnic cuisines (Indian, Thai, etc.)
  • Flavorings (Artificial/natural)
  • Flavored coffees
  • Frozen desserts
  • Health and Nutritional supplements, such as herbal remedies and vitamins
  • Herbal teas
  • Hot cocoa and cocoa mixes
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Ice cream, gelato, frozen desserts, sundae toppings, frozen yogurt, pralines
  • Main course dishes such as butter chicken, chicken korma, mole sauce, pad thai, satay, chili, other gravy dishes
  • Mortadella
  • Natural flavorings and extracts
  • Nougat
  • Nut-flavored coffees, hot cocoa, specialty drinks
  • Peanut oil
  • Pesto sauce
  • Prepackaged salads, soups, etc.
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces (Marinades, gravy, etc.)
  • Smoke flavorings
  • Snack food like chips, popcorn, snack mixes, trail mix
  • Spreads and nut butters (e.g., Nutella and gianduia/gianduja)
  • Trail mix
  • Vegetarian dishes
  • Vegan “meats”

(FARE, 2022)

Spices with Possible Traces of Tree Nuts Due to Cross Reactivity

  • Cumin (may contain almonds or peanuts)
  • Spice blends/mixes (may contain cumin)
  • Mustard and tree nuts
  • Sesame and tree nuts
  • Cottonseed and walnut 

(Bottaro, 2022)

*Reminder: Check and Double-check all ingredients before serving!

Nonfood Sources of Tree Nuts

  • Beanbags, kick sacks/hacky sacks
  • Bird seed
  • Cosmetics, skin and hair care products, lotions, soap, body scrubs, sunscreens
  • Pet food 

(Food Allergy Canada, 2022)

Kimberly Whiteside Truitt is former food service manager at Camp Gilmont and Camp Zephyr and has served on Camping Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Committee. Kimberly was a presenter at the 2018 and 2020 North American Food Service and Maintenance Conferences.


  • American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. (2022). Tree nut. ACAAI.
  • Bottaro, A. (2022, May 19). What spices should you avoid with a nut allergy? Verywell Health.
  • CocoGoodsCo. (2020, September 15). Are coconuts a fruit or a nut?
  • FARE. (2022). Tree nut allergy.
  • Food Allergy Canada. (2022). Tree nuts.
  • Food and Drug Administration. (2016). Section 201(qq) of the act defines the term “major food allergen” to include “tree nuts.” In addition to the three examples provided in section 201(qq) (almonds, pecans, and walnuts), hat nuts are considered “tree nuts?” FDA.
  • Food Insight. (2018, February 22). Peanut vs. tree nuts allergy and why it matters.
  • Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. (2022). If I have a nut allergy, can I eat coconut? KidsHealth.,-Can-I-Eat-Coconut
  • KidsHealth. (2022). Nut and peanut allergy. The Nemours Foundation.
  • Salo, J. (2021, June 3). Teen girl dies of food allergy after eating dessert at cheer banquet. New York Post.
  • Shaikh, J. (2021, May 26). What is the most common tree nut allergy? MedicineNet.

Percussion Play Ad