25-year-old dancer dead after cookies from grocery store were mislabeled

Órla Baxendale, a 25-year-old professional dancer, tragically lost her life on January 11 from a fatal allergic reaction after eating a mislabeled cookie.

The young woman consumed a Vanilla Florentine Cookie that was “manufactured by Cookies United and sold by Stew Leonard’s, which contained undisclosed peanuts,” as shared by a law firm representing the late dancer’s family.

Sadly, she went into anaphylactic shock, and despite her friends’ efforts to save her by administering her epi pen and rushing her to a hospital, she lost her life.

The container of the cookie revealed “soy, wheat, and milk” were used to make the cookies, but the label was not entirely accurate.

In a statement shared by Stew Leonard Jr., he revealed that their supplier “changed the recipe and started going from soy nuts to peanuts and our chief safety officer at Stew Leonard’s was never notified.”

Further,the statement read, “It’s a sad day for us. We’re just all devastated, very sad. have four daughters, one of them is in their 20s. I can imagine how that family feels right now, and we’re all just very, very sad about this whole thing.”

Cookie United, which manufactures the cookies that are later repackaged by Stew Leonard’s with their own labels, claim they did notify the latter of the change in the ingredients used to produce the cookie that claimed Baxendale’s life.

“This product is sold under the Stew Leonard’s brand and repackaged at their facilities. The incorrect label was created by, and applied to their product by Stew Leonard’s,” a spokesperson for Cookie’s United said in a statement.

The manufacturer’s statement included images of the updated cookie labels sent to 11 of Stew Lenaord’s employees on July 20, 2023, with the Vanilla Florentine Cookies packaging stating peanuts as an ingredient.

While the two companies are passing the blame on each other, The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the Department of Public Health have opened an investigation.

“Correct labeling so that people who have food allergies can appropriately protect themselves is of utmost importance. I am devastated to learn of this incident and will work with partners to ensure that we can protect people with food allergies,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani said in a statement.

They described the incident as a “heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened,” and added that they’re eager to get to the bottom of the case.

Speaking to ABC News, the young woman’s family’s attorney, Marijo Adimey, said, “Because Orla was so vigilant and so careful with everything she touched, she actually Googled ‘soy nut,’ which is on the package wanting to make sure that a soy nut wasn’t a nut.”

He further said that the investigation into the dancer’s death, who moved from England to New York to pursue a professional career, revealed “gross negligence and reckless conduct of the manufacturer and/or sellers.”

“This failure in proper disclosure has led to this devastating yet preventable outcome,” Adimey added.

We are so very sorry about this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Baxendale’s family. May she rest in peace.

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