Ballet dancer dies from severe nut allergy after labelling error on biscuits

Orla Baxendale, 25, suffered anaphylactic shock on January 11 (Picture: Instagram / orla_baxendale)

A British ballet dancer with a severe nut allergy has died in the US after eating a cookie that did not list peanuts on the packaging.

Orla Baxendale, 25, suffered anaphylactic shock on January 11 after eating the Vanilla Florentine Cookie, purchased from a branch of US grocery chain, Stew Leonards in Connecticut.

Ms Baxendale, who moved to New York from East Lancashire in 2018 to pursue her dream of a dance career, was ‘hyper-vigilant’ about everything she ate.

She also always carried an EpiPen and and ‘surrounded herself with people who know how to administer one‘ – but tragically on this occasion, it was not enough to counter the fatal allergic reaction, lawyers for her family said.

In a statement, grieving relatives described Ms Baxendale ‘truly one of a kind’ and ‘a beautiful, radiant soul’.

‘She danced her way across the world and lived life to the fullest every day.

‘We will never recover from the pain of having her taken from us so soon, in the prime of her life.

‘But we are also so proud to call her our daughter and sister, and to have had the privilege of sharing 25 years with such an incredibly special person.’

Ms Baxendale moved to New York in 2018 to pursue her dreams (Picture: Joann Toy)

And the family expressed their disbelief that, in 2024, allergies continue to claim lives.

‘We want to urge everyone to educate yourselves and those around you about anaphylaxis, how to use EpiPens and the early warning signs for severe allergic reactions,’ they added.

They also paid tribute to the Manchester-born dancer’s ‘mesmerising talent, cheeky nature and incredible compassion for others’, and expressed their gratitude for the hundreds of condolence messages they have received from across the globe.

One mum posted on Ms Baxendale’s Instagram page: ‘To Orla’s family, my heart and deepest sympathy goes out to you to lose such a beautiful and talented young girl.

‘I have two young daughters both [with] food allergies and I know that fear… I hope justice is brought for her life and we can change our nations policies and practices.

‘This tragedy shouldn’t have happened.’

Grieving relatives described Ms Baxendale ‘truly one of a kind’ and ‘a beautiful, radiant soul’ (Picture: Everloved)

Around 500 packets of the cookies sold between November 6 and December 31 last year have been recalled in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Stew Leonard Jr, the president and chief executive of the store chain, said supplier, Cookies United, had changed their recipe from soy nuts to peanuts, without notifying their chief safety officer.

But Cookies United said it told Stew Leonards the product contained peanuts – and insists all packaging was labelled accordingly.

Stew Leonards added the cookies were only sold at branches in Danbury and Newington in Connecticut.

Orla lived life to the fullest every day, her family said (Picture: Instagram / orla_baxendale)

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The commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Bryan Cafferelli described Ms Baxendale’s death as a ‘heart-breaking tragedy’.

The stage agency is working alongside local and federal authorities, together with other states, in a bid to ‘prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future’.

The tragedy follows the death of James Atkinson, who died after having an allergic reaction to a chicken tikka masala pizza, an inquest heard earlier this month.

He suffered anaphylaxis caused by eating peanuts in the curry and died in hospital in July 2020.

‘Natasha’s Law’ was introduced to protect allergy sufferers in the UK following the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who suffered a severe allergic reaction after eating a Pret baguette in 2016.

One serious allergy sufferer told what it’s like living with the fear that a takeaway could be a death sentence.  

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