A grieving mother’s warning has gone viral after her teenage daughter died of an allergic reaction from eating a cookie she believed to be “safe.”
Kellie Travers-Stafford of Weston, Fla. took to social media with an impassioned message to parents of children with a food allergy, warning them of what she believes is misleading packaging.
“Our hearts are broken and we are still in shock,” she wrote. “Our whole lives were dedicated to keeping our child safe from one ingredient, peanuts.”
Fifteen-year-old Alexi Ryann died on June 25, less than two hours after accidentally ingesting a Chips Ahoy! cookie that contained Reese’s Peanut Butter chips while visiting a friend.
“There was an open package of Chips Ahoy! cookies, the top flap of the package was pulled back and the packaging was too similar to what we had previously deemed ‘safe.’ She ate one cookie of chewy Chips Ahoy! thinking it was safe because of the ‘red’ packaging, only to find out too late that there was an added ingredient… Reese’s peanut butter cups/chips.”
After ingesting the cookie, Alexi immediately started feeling tingling in her mouth and went home, where her condition “rapidly deteriorated” and she went into anaphylactic shock. The teen became unconscious and stopped breathing and her parents administered two EpiPens while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Less than an hour and a half after ingesting the cookie, Alexi passed away.
“As a mother who diligently taught her the ropes of what was okay to ingest…I feel lost and angry because she knew her limits and was aware of familiar packaging,” Stafford said. “She knew what ‘safe’ was. A small added indication on the pulled back flap on a familiar red package wasn’t enough to call out to her that there was ‘peanut product’ in the cookies before it was too late.”
Stafford and her husband Michael are hoping that by sharing their story they can help prevent future tragedies from occurring.
“The company has different coloured packaging to indicate chunky, chewy or regular (cookies) but NO screaming warnings about such a fatal ingredient to many people. Especially children.”
Since sharing, Stafford’s Facebook post has been shared more than 72,000 times.
Concerned customers and parents of children with allergies have contacted Chips Ahoy! and Nabisco, through Twitter and Facebook, asking the company to switch to a completely different colour packaging for products containing peanuts.
The company remains consistent in their messaging, replying to each request for a change in packaging with a standard reply.
“We take allergies very seriously and all of our products are clearly labeled on the information panel of the packaging for the major food allergens in the U.S. (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans),” a Chips Ahoy! spokesperson wrote. “Across our Chips Ahoy! product portfolio, packaging colour is indicative of product texture (i.e., Chewy, Chunky, Original) and is not indicative of the presence of allergens. We always encourage consumers to read the packaging labeling when purchasing and consuming any of our products for information about product ingredients, including presence of allergens. (For added reference, the packaging for Chips Ahoy! made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups prominently indicates, on both the front and side panels, the presence of peanut butter cups through both words and visuals.)”
According to the CDC, the prevalence of food allergies in children under 18 increased 18 per cent between 1997 and 2007, with higher rates of food allergies reported in children under the age of 5.
Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) reports that every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone in the United States to the emergency room.
Similarly, a new Canadian study conducted by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal found that more and more children are being hospitalized for allergic reactions.
“With the rising rates of allergies among Canadian children, we were interested in determining if anaphylaxis rates are also increasing,” explained the study’s leader, Dr. Ben-Shoshan. “Our findings suggest a worrisome increase in anaphylaxis rates that is consistent with the world-wide reported increase.”
While losing a child is every parent’s wort fear, Alexi Stafford’s death is particularly stressing for parents of children with severe food allergies.
Despite being diligent, one simple mistake has robbed a family of their daughter, and a young woman of her future.
The Stafford family is hoping that Alexi’s death can help others, and perhaps affect change.
“It’s important to us to spread the awareness so that this horrible mistake doesn’t happen again.”