What We Learned from the Ava-Grace Stevens Inquest


The inquest into the death of nine-year-old Ava-Grace Stevens took place at Sessions House, North Hampton, UK today.

Ava was with her family enjoying a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida on October 28, 2019 when she suffered anaphylaxis to a food she had eaten. A statement by Geoffrey Stevens was read into the record detailing what had happened that day.

The family had returned to their lodging for dinner. Afterward, Ava’s younger brother Harrison’s face began to swell and his breathing became labored, raising concerns for both children as Ava’s allergy to milk was similar to her brother’s.

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Mr Stevens said he knew immediately that the food they had eaten must have contained milk.

I was then made aware Harrison was breathing funny and his face was swelling. I went downstairs to check the food labels, as I read the labels I saw it said ‘non-fat milk’. I knew immediately it contained skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

I ran to Ava, who was watching a film in the cinema room. When I asked Ava if she was ok she said she was.

Mr Stevens returned to the brother to provide more treatment, although whether the treatment included epinephrine is unknown.

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In the meantime, Ava’s mother, Shelley, saw that her daughter had begun to react when her face turned gray and she stopped breathing. Ava was placed on the floor and administered CPR while emergency services was called. Police and paramedics arrived on the scene and rushed Ava to the hospital. Again, it is unknown whether epinephrine was administered.

Mr Stevens said: “I was called into a room and told by a doctor there was nothing they could do to save Ava. I can say this was an awful, tragic accident.”

Said Mr Stevens:

In the run up to the holiday Shelley and I took Ava to visit the doctors. We also got extra prescription medication for the holiday. We did everything we could to ensure they were not around dairy products.

Everyone [the wider family] had been briefed about Harrison and Ava’s allergies and they knew not to share food.

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Mr Stevens said that he and his wife had gone grocery shopping the day before where they checked all the labels before purchasing food. However, Mr Stevens said the food labels in the UK are ‘clearer to read’ than in the US where many details are ‘tucked behind labels’.

Coroner Anne Pember said: “This is a tragic loss of a little girl who was clearly very loved. Huge steps were taken by her parents to ensure she was given appropriate food.”

The coroner concluded that Ava’s death was accidental.

GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family through this difficult time.

Our deepest sympathies go out to the Stevens family for the loss of their Ava and we wish them strength and solace in the days to come.

We at SnackSafely.com firmly and wholeheartedly agree with Mr Stevens that allergen labeling in the US is needlessly confusing, posing a danger to residents as well as visitors to this country.

In our article, Four Changes the FDA Must Adopt to Make Ingredient Labeling Safer for the Allergic Community, we urge the Food and Drug Administration to make four simple changes, one of which, mandating the “Contains” statement, may well have prevented Ava’s anaphylaxis and subsequent death.

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As we do when reporting these tragedies, we look for ways the allergic community can prevent similar occurrences from befalling their families.

First and foremost, be sure to administer epinephrine immediately as soon as anaphylaxis is suspected, then call emergency services. Epinephrine is the only drug indicated to halt the progression of anaphylaxis. If symptoms do not improve or return, additional doses of epinephrine can be given five minutes or more after the previous dose until help arrives. (Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you everywhere, every time you go out.)

Also, be sure to talk to your allergist about whether epinephrine should be administered when you know you have ingested your allergen of concern but do not yet show symptoms. The sooner epinephrine is administered with anaphylaxis, the better the outcome.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.

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