Watch CBS News

25-year-old woman dies after eating mislabeled cookies, prompting Stew Leonard's recall

Death of dancer who ate mislabeled cookie called "100% preventable"
Death of dancer who ate mislabeled cookie called "100% preventable" 02:26

HARTFORD, Connecticut - Stew Leonard's is recalling some cookies after a person died. 

The Vanilla Florentine cookies were made by an outside manufacturer and sold only at Stew Leonard's in Danbury and Newington, Connecticut, from Nov. 6 - Dec. 31, 2023.  

The cookies contained peanuts, but that wasn't listed on the label. 

Órla Baxendale, 25, a dancer, died of anaphylactic shock. It's believed she consumed the cookies while at an event in Connecticut. 

"This is a heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened," said Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Bryan 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."

"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 Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani. "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."

Stew Leonard released a video statement about the incident, calling it a "sad day" for him and his family. 

"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, and our chief safety officer never was notified. We didn't change the label," Leonard said. "We're just all devastated, very sad. I have four daughters... I can imagine how that family feels right now, and we're all just very, very sad about this whole thing." 

Cookies United, who manufactured the cookies, issued the following statement: 

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  

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.