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NY woman dies after eating cookies sold by Stew Leonard’s, without proper labeling

Órla Baxendale, 25, died after eating cookies sold by Stew Leonard’s in Newington or Danbury, according to news statements. (Contributed)

A New York resident in their 20s died after eating cookies sold by Stew Leonard’s in Danbury and Newington, according to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Food, Standards and Product Safety Division (DCP) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

The cookies contained eggs and peanuts, which did not appear on the label, officials said.

“Cookies affected by the recall are Florentine Cookies with a best by date of January 5, 2024. These cookies are seasonal and were sold in Danbury and Newington from November 6 to December 31, 2023,” DCP and DPH said.

The cookies as sold by Stew Leonard’s, according to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Food, Standards and Product Safety Division (DCP) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health. (Contributed)

Órla Baxendale, 25, a “talented dancer,” died Jan. 11 due to anaphylactic shock resulting from a severe allergic reaction, lawyers representing the family said.

She ate the cookies at a social gathering in Connecticut, State officials said.

Stew Leonard, in a video statement, said his family is devastated and very sad about Baxendale’s death.

Leonard said his company’s Chief Safety Officer was not notified of the peanuts in the cookies; manufacturer Cookies United said 11 Stew’s employees were.

“It was a holiday cookie, it was a one-shot deal, we bought it from outside supplier,” Leonard said. “And unfortunately, the supplier changed the recipe and started going from soy nuts to peanuts. And our Chief Safety Officer here at Stew Leonard’s was never notified. We have a very rigorous process that we use as far as labeling; we take labels very seriously, especially peanuts. Our Chief Safety Officer never was notified. We didn’t change the label hence we sold about 500 packages of these cookies over the holiday.”

“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,” Walker G. Flanary III, General Counsel for Cookies United said in a news release. “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.”

Baxendale was born in East Lancashire, U.K., and moved to New York to pursue a career as a dancer, lawyers from Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf, a personal injury firm, said in a statement. “Órla’s vibrant spirit and her relentless pursuit of excellence in her art have left an indelible mark on all who knew her.”

“I have four daughters,” Leonard said. “One of them’s in her 20s. I can imagine how that family feels right now. We’re all just very, very sad about this whole thing.”

The cookies’ original label, according to Cookies United. (Contributed)

“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,” the  State news release said. “DCP investigators are working with state and local public health officials in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, the Food and Drug Administration and Stew Leonard’s to determine the cause of the error, as well as if any other products were affected and sold to other stores.”

“This is a heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened,” said DCP Commissioner Bryan T. Cafferelli in a statement. “… Our condolences go out to the family affected by this incident.”

“Correct labeling so that people who have food allergies can appropriately protect themselves is of utmost importance,” DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, M.D. said in a statement. “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.”

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