A professional dancer based in New York City tragically lost her life after consuming a mislabeled holiday cookie that contained peanuts, purchased from the well-known supermarket, Stew Leonard’s. The supermarket and the wholesaler are now embroiled in a blame game over the incident. Órla Baxendale, 25, suffered a severe allergic reaction, leading to anaphylactic shock after eating a Vanilla Florentine cookie on January 11, according to a statement from the law firm representing her family.
The family’s attorney, Marijo Adimey, stated that Baxendale’s untimely death was the result of an unfortunate incident involving a cookie produced by Cookies United and sold by Stew Leonard’s, which contained undisclosed peanuts. This oversight has prompted a recall of the Vanilla Florentine Cookies from Stew Leonard’s stores in Danbury and Newington, Connecticut, for the period of November 6 – December 31, 2023.
Adimey further alleged that an investigation into Baxendale’s death revealed gross negligence and reckless conduct on the part of the manufacturer and/or sellers for failing to disclose on the cookies’ packaging that the product contained peanuts. This lack of proper disclosure led to this devastating yet preventable outcome, the attorney noted.
Baxendale, originally from the UK, consumed the cookie at a social gathering in Connecticut. She had moved to New York City in 2018 to train as a scholarship student at the Ailey School. Baxendale had performed during New York Fashion Week and had been involved in dance productions at Lincoln Center.
Stew Leonard’s has claimed that the Long Island bakery that supplies the cookies did not inform it of a change of ingredients in the Vanilla Florentine Cookies. However, Cookies United, the wholesaler, countered this claim, stating that it had shared the change in ingredients with the regional supermarket chain months before Baxendale’s death.
The wholesaler further alleges that Stew Leonard’s changed the packaging to represent the store’s brand but failed to properly label the cookies as containing peanuts before they hit the shelves. Stew Leonard’s has since issued a recall for the seasonal product. The supermarket is working with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) and the supplier to determine the cause of the labeling error.
The DCP’s Standards and Product Safety Division is investigating the deadly mishap with officials in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, the Food and Drug Administration, and Stew Leonard’s. DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli stated that they will get to the bottom of how this error happened and prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future.