Woman dies after eating cookies not labeled as containing peanuts

A woman died after officials said she consumed a cookie that did not note the presence of peanuts on the label. 

Attorneys said Órla Baxendale, 25, had a severe allergic reaction after consuming a Florentine cookie from Stew Leonard’s grocery store in Connecticut. The law firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman and Mackauf said an oversight led to the cookies being available without proper labeling from Nov. 6 through Dec. 31. 

“Preliminary investigation has revealed that Órla’s death occurred due to the gross negligence and reckless conduct of the manufacturer and/or sellers who failed to properly identify the contents of the cookie on the packaging. This failure in proper disclosure has led to this devastating yet preventable outcome,” the law firm said. 

Stew Leonard Jr., head of the grocery store, said the supplier changed the recipe without notifying the grocery store, claiming the recipe changed from soy nuts to peanuts. Leonard said the company has a “rigorous process” for labeling. 

Leonard said 500 packages of the cookies were sold during the holidays. 

Cookies United produced the cookies and said that it had notified Stew Leonard’s of the presence of peanuts. 

“We need to point out that Stew Leonard’s was notified by Cookies United in July of 2023 that this product now contains peanuts and all products shipped to them have been labeled accordingly,” Cookies United said. “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.”

“I want to ensure you the products you buy at Stew Leonard’s are safe,” Leonard said. 

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Food, Standards and Product Safety Division said the cookies were sold at Stew Leonard’s locations in Danbury and Newington. 

The products are no longer on shelves, and those who purchased the Florentine cookies with a best by date of Jan. 6 should dispose of them. 

“This is a heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened,” said Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli. “DCP Food Investigators are working hard with the Department of Public Health, local health departments, officials in New York State and New Jersey, the Food and Drug Administration and Stew Leonard’s to determine how this error happened and prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future. Our condolences go out to the family affected by this incident.”

Baxendale was originally from England, but had moved to New York to pursue a career in dance. Her obituary says she was featured in numerous productions, as she excelled in various types of dance, including ballet, contemporary and Irish step.

“Each endeavor she undertook became a testament to her dedication and passion, leaving a lasting impact on many lives,” the obituary states.