As we reported yesterday, mislabeled Florentine Cookies sold by Stew Leonard’s reportedly caused the death of 25-year-old Órla Baxendale, a dancer from Manchester, UK, who moved to New York City in 2018 to study dance on a scholarship to the Ailey School.
A statement by Marijo D Adminey, attorney for the family, said she was at a dance studio on January 11 when she suffered an anaphylactic reaction to the cookies which contained peanuts but were not labeled as such.
The attorney said:
Orla was very careful and hyper-vigilant about everything she ate, and always thoroughly checked the ingredients on all packaging. In addition, she always carried an EpiPen with her and surrounded herself with people who know how to administer one.
In fact, when this tragic and preventable incident occurred and after she began to have an anaphylactic reaction, an EpiPen was used but due to the severity of her allergy, it was not effective.
The attorney went on to excoriate Stew Leonard’s CEO, Stew Leonard Jr, who blamed the manufacturer, Cookies United, for not notifying the chain that the recipe had changed to include peanuts. The manufacturer claims they notified Stew Leonard’s of the change back in July 2023:
In what could only be described as deplorable conduct, Stew Leonard chose to post a video statement with his family alongside him attempting yet again to circumvent blame by stating that his Chief Products Officer was unaware of the change in ingredients.
Instead of standing up and taking full responsibility as the public would have expected them to, as the family of Orla would have expected him to, Stew Leonard’s is engaging in a public relations media campaign and promoting their own self-interests.
Here is a WTNH-TV report with the statement by Stew Leonard Jr:
Baxendale’s sister Niamh posted this tribute to Órla on Instagram:
Our sincere condolences go out to the Baxendale family for their loss. We can’t imagine the pain of sending a daughter to pursue her dreams in the US, only to learn that her life was cut short by an entirely preventable tragedy.
It may come as news to some in the food allergy community that epinephrine did not save Ms Baxendale from the anaphylaxis that took her life.
Epinephrine is the only drug that can halt and reverse the progression of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction to a food, drug, insect venom, or environmental substance like latex. To be most effective, it must be administered early in an anaphylactic reaction and for some reactions, a single dose may not be sufficient.
We encourage all food allergy sufferers to take two epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time. Be sure to administer one when you first suspect anaphylaxis and call emergency services, and if the symptoms don’t subside within a few minutes, administer the second.