Aspiring world-class dancer, 25, dies after eating mislabeled cookies; sudden death said to be ‘100% preventable and avoidable’

An aspiring world-class dancer died suddenly after eating cookies that were mislabeled. The attorney for the deceased professional dancer said her sudden death was “100% preventable and avoidable.”

Órla Baxendale moved to New York City from the United Kingdom six years ago “to pursue her dream career as a world-class dancer,” according to a statement released by the attorney representing the grieving family.

However, tragedy struck on Jan. 11, when she suffered a fatal allergic reaction to eating cookies that were mislabeled.

Baxendale was reportedly performing in Connecticut, where she consumed a cookie purchased from a Stew Leonard’s grocery store.

Baxendale allegedly suffers from a severe nut allergy, so, she is said to have checked the ingredients of the cookie before she ate it.

“Made sure there wasn’t anything in terms of peanuts on the label. There wasn’t, so safely, she thought, she had a bite or two of the cookie, and within a minute started to go into anaphylactic shock,” said Marijo Adimey — an attorney representing the family.

Baxendale purportedly ate vanilla Florentine cookies from Stew Leonard’s — which are said to have peanuts in them.

On Thursday, Stew Leonard’s — which is working with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection — announced that approximately 500 Florentine cookies sold had been recalled.

The cookies were allegedly only sold between Nov. 6 and Dec. 31, 2023, at the Stew Leonard’s grocery stores in Danbury and Newington, Connecticut.

“The cookies contain undeclared peanuts and eggs,” Stew Leonard’s said in a statement. “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. One death has been reported that may be associated with the mislabeled product.”

Stew Leonard Jr. said, “We’re just devastated, very sad. It was a holiday cookie… we bought it from an outside supplier, and unfortunately this supplier changed the recipe and started going from soy nuts to peanuts.”

Baxendale’s allergy to peanuts was so severe that she allegedly “carried EpiPens wherever she went.”

“Órla’s family, devastated by this unimaginable loss, wishes to express their gratitude for the outpouring of support and tributes from around the world,” the lawyers said, according to WNBC-TV. “She was a radiant and brave soul who pursued her dreams relentlessly, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of those who knew her.”

“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family, friends, and the global dance community mourning the loss of this extraordinary individual,” the statement added.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Manhattan said in a statement on Thursday:

The Ailey School is deeply saddened by the untimely passing of alumna Órla Baxendale. Órla was born and raised in Manchester UK and moved to New York in 2018 to join the Ailey family as a Scholarship student. Since then, she had become an integral part of the New York dance world, pursuing her passion, shining her bright light, and doing what she loved most. She danced with numerous companies and choreographers, most recently as a member of MOMIX. Her loss will be profoundly felt by her friends, colleagues, and all who knew her. We will remember her for her joyful spirit and boundless talent. Our thoughts are with her family at this devastating time.

The family said, “She was a radiant and brave soul who pursued her dreams relentlessly, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of those who knew her.”

Officials from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the Connecticut Department of Public Health are investigating the fatal incident.

DCP Food Commissioner Bryan Cafferelli stated, “This is a heartbreaking tragedy that should never have happened. 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 DPH 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 followed for the safety of the residents of Connecticut.”

Adimey said, “Her death was completely, 100% preventable and avoidable. It’s why packaging is so important. Her death was completely, 100% preventable and avoidable. It’s why packaging is so important.”

Death of dancer who ate mislabeled cookie called “100% preventable”

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