Recall of Stew Leonard's cookies in Connecticut expanded after peanut allergy death

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, January 25, 2024
Dancer who moved to Tri-State dies afte eating Stew Leonard's cookie containing nuts
A woman in her 20s from the United Kingdom died after eating the cookies at a party after suffering an allergic reaction.

CONNECTICUT (WABC) -- A recall alert has been expanded following the death of a New Yorker who ate cookies that were incorrectly labeled from Stew Leonard's.

Roughly 500 packs of Vanilla Florentine cookies sold at stores in Danbury and Newington, Connecticut contained peanuts -- even though they were not a listed ingredient.

A woman in her 20s from the United Kingdom died when she ate the cookies at a party after suffering an allergic reaction.

Órla Baxendale, a dancer who moved to the Tri-State to pursue her dancing career, died on January 11.

Raegan Medgie has the story.

The cookies are seasonal and were sold from November 6 to December 31, 2023. The cookies had a best buy date of January 5, 2024.

The recall was then expanded to include Chocolate Florentine cookies that were sold during the same time period and locations, due to it containing unlisted peanuts and eggs.

"People with an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts or eggs run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products," Stew Leonard's said in a statement.

Consumers with a nut or egg allergy should immediately dispose of the cookies or return them to the point of sale and seek medical attention if necessary.

Stew Leonard Jr. issued a video statement following Baxendale's death.

"I could imagine how that family feels right now and we're all just very sad about this whole thing," Leonard Jr. said.

Marcus Solis has the story.

The Florentine Cookies were produced by a wholesaler, Cookies United, in Islip, New York, and repackaged by Stew Leonard's -- which claims it was unaware they now contain peanuts.

"The supplier changed the recipe and started going from soy nuts to peanuts and our chief safety officer at Stew Leonard's was never notified," Leonard Jr. said.

But Cookies United says it can prove otherwise. An email dated July 11 states the cookies now contain peanuts and the company listed the redacted email addresses of 11 Stew Leonard's employees who were notified of the change.

The supplier also provided a picture of its labeling that lists peanuts as an ingredient.

Out of an abundance of caution, DCP worked with Stew Leonard's to remove all baked items produced by Cookies United from all Stew Leonard's Connecticut locations.

Health officials are vowing to determine how this happened and prevent a similar tragedy.

"Correct labeling so that people who have food allergies can appropriately protect themselves is of utmost importance. I am devastated to learn of this incident and will work with partners to ensure that we can protect people with food allergies. I cannot stress enough the importance of food allergy awareness so that an avoidable tragedy like this doesn't happen again," said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD. "We will continue to work with all our partners - including restaurants and retailers - to provide education on the dangers of food allergens so that best practices are being following for the safety of the residents of Connecticut."

Dr. David Rosenthal answers how to spot and treat an allergic reaction.

Cookies United said in a statement that Stew Leonard's was informed of the change that the Vanilla Florentine Cookies do now contain peanuts.

"It has come to the attention of Cookies United that a customer of Stew Leonard's has tragically died as a result of eating cookies containing peanuts. Our hearts and condolences are first with the family of this Stew Leonard's customer. Stew Leonard's claimed in an earlier press release that "The cookies contain peanuts, which was an ingredient not disclosed to Stew Leonard's by the manufacturer. Unfortunately, considering the tragedy of these circumstances, 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. 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. In the 24 hours since Cookies United learned of this tragedy we have been cooperating with the New York State Department of Agriculture and have been informed we are in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations relating to this product. Our deepest sympathies to the family of this Stew Leonard's customer," said Walker G. Flanary III, General Counsel.

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