Lawsuit Filed After Allergic Dancer Dies After Eating Mislabeled Cookie

A young dancer recently died after she ate a cookie that was mislabeled, and now, her estate has filed a lawsuit.

This week, the estate of Orla Ruth Baxendale filed a lawsuit against Stew Leonard’s, a grocery retailer, after she ate a cookie that didn’t say it contained peanuts and died as a result.

Baxendale, who was 25 years old, died on January 11 after she ate the cookie. She is allergic to peanuts, and suffered an anaphylactic reaction after eating the cookie, the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, Baxendale had a severe allergy to peanuts. She moved from England to New York City so she could pursue a career as a dancer and was in “the prime of her life.”

The suit was filed in Superior Court in Waterbury, Connecticut.

The cookies were part of a holiday batch that were sold at various Stew Leonard’s retail locations in Newington and Danbury — cities in Connecticut — late last year. They later were recalled.

The cookies had the label of Stew Leonard’s brand name, according to state officials, and they were produced by Cookies United, a wholesaler based in Long Island, New York.

The lawsuit that was filed last week names both of those companies as defendants, as well as multiple employees of the Stew Leonard’s stores.

As the lawsuit states, failing to label the package of cookies properly prior to making them available for sale “was grossly negligent, intentional, reckless, callous, indifferent to human life, and a wanton violation as the manufacturer and seller were required under the law to properly declare the ingredients.”

A Stew Leonard’s spokesperson said the comment was not able to comment on the situation since there was pending litigation. Cookies United’s spokesperson didn’t respond to media email requests seeking a comment on the situation.

In January, Stew Leonard’s company officials said they were not notified by the supplier of the cookies that they changed the ingredients in the recipe from peanuts to soy nuts. The company’s chief safety officer didn’t receive notification of this change.

However, Cookies United disputes this statement. The company said that last July, they gave Stew Leonard’s notice of the change in the recipe. They added that all of the products that were shipping to Stew Leonard’s were labeled with the new ingredients.

Food allergies as a whole are on the rise in the U.S. In total, it’s estimated that 33 million people in the country have a food allergy, including one in 10 adults and one in 13 children.

More than half of the adults who have a food allergy have experienced a severe reaction, and more than 40% of children have done the same, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education organization.

There are nine major food allergens, and peanuts are one of them. The others are milk, eggs, tree nuts, soy, crustacean shellfish, sesame, soy and wheat. 

These nine allergens are responsible for the majority of serious allergic reactions in the U.S.