15-year-old Celina Rose Minsk learned about her food allergies at the age of five after she bit into a peanut butter sandwich.
“She was old enough to remember and it hurt,” said Mayda Minsk, Celina’s mom.
Thanks to the vigilance of Celina and her parents, their only child managed to avoid reactions for a decade.
“We would usually take a bite and taste-test food,” Mayda said.
But the story turns tragic despite the best of intentions. Celina’s dad John Minsk attended a social where he was offered a cookie upon leaving.
“I asked, ‘Does it have any nuts in it?’ and they said ‘It’s gluten-free, it’s nut-free,’” John said.
“So, I wrote on the bag gluten-free, nut-free,” added Mayda.
Celina took a bite of the cookie and immediately realized it contained nuts.
“It had almond flour,” John said.
Celina became ill and suffered anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening reaction to a food, drug, insect venom, or substance. She received epinephrine, but by that point, her pulse was already fading.
“She was literally suffocating. I will never forget that,” Mayda said.
First responders arrived on the scene and did their best to revive the teen.
“She had no pulse for 67 minutes,” John said.
She was taken to a nearby hospital where the parents were told she was likely brain dead. She was removed from life support a few days later and pronounced dead this February 22.
Her organs were subsequently donated in a final act of kindness.
See this WRAL news report where the Minsk’s describe Celina and the events that transpired. The report also goes on to explain how, due to various diet trends, nuts are being used to replace other ingredients like flour:
We send our deepest sympathies to the Minsks who have experienced an unthinkable tragedy and we thank them for their outreach to help prevent similar occurrences from befalling others. We hope their efforts bring them some measure of solace.
As we do when reporting these tragedies, we look to ways others in the food allergy community can avoid similar outcomes.
We urge all readers with food allergies to never consume unwrapped, unlabeled food unless they know precisely how it was made and by whom and are confident in the source. Too often, a well-meaning person may think they know the ingredients but don’t actually, or the food may have been prepared in a kitchen or facility without proper safeguards to prevent cross-contact, i.e. when an allergen is inadvertently introduced into a food due to a contaminated surface or ingredient.
We also warn that having another taste test food to determine whether it contains an allergen is dangerous and could impart a false sense of security. A mere trace of an allergen can result in an anaphylactic reaction, and a trace of any ingredient is not perceptible.
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so skip the food unless you are absolutely certain of its origin, and don’t rely on others to determine whether it’s safe.