Although most people these days — particularly parents — are aware of just how life-threatening some food allergies can be, one mom is using her own personal tragedy to hammer home the point to those who might not take food allergies as seriously as they should.
Kellie Travers-Stafford’s 15-year-old daughter, Alexi Ryann, died on June 25 after unknowingly eating a cookie that had Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and peanut butter chips in it. The Weston, Florida, teen was aware of her allergy and she and her family were usually vigilant to ensure she avoided products that may contain peanuts.
However, Alexi was at a friend’s house when she reached into a red bag of Chips Ahoy! cookies, thinking they were the brand’s classic chocolate chip cookies. Instead, the cookies contained peanut butter cups and chips. Although she only ate one cookie, Alexi immediately felt unwell and hurried home.
She quickly went into anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and went unconscious. Although her family administered two epi pens while they waited for the paramedics to arrive, Alexi died within 90 minutes of eating the cookie.
Travers-Stafford shared her family’s tragic story in order to warn others about how quickly and easily a mistake like this can happen and claim the life of someone who suffers from a severe food allergy. She is also calling upon manufacturers to make warnings about products that may contain common allergens on their products more prominent:
Alongside a photo of a package of the type Chips Ahoy! cookie her daughter ate that day, Travers-Stafford explained how the terrible accident occurred.
“As a mother who diligently taught her the ropes of what was okay to ingest and what was not, I feel lost and angry because she knew her limits and was aware of familiar packaging, she knew what ‘safe’ was,” she wrote. “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.”
She went on to explain that she chose to share her story in order to spread awareness about how similar the packaging can be for products with and without peanuts.
“The company has different colored packaging to indicate chunky, chewy, or regular but NO screaming warnings about such a fatal ingredient to many people. Especially children. It’s important to us to spread awareness so that this horrible mistake doesn’t happen again. Please share.”
Her post has since gone viral and has been shared more than 79,000 times. People reached out in the comments section to express their condolences for this family’s tragic loss.
In the wake of the viral post, others have taken to social media to urge Nabisco, which makes Chips Ahoy!, to make its allergy warnings more prominent, as Travers-Stafford suggests. In response, the brand tweeted the following:
We take allergens very seriously. Chewy Chips Ahoy! made w/ Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups packaging clearly shows that it contains peanuts through words and visuals. Package color indicates Chewy, Chunky, or Original. Consumers should always read the label for allergy information.
— Chips Ahoy! (@ChipsAhoy) July 16, 2018
“We take allergens very seriously,” the tweet read. “Consumers should always read the label for allergy information.”
The tragedy was also addressed by Mondelez International, Nabisco’s parent company.
“We were very saddened to hear about this situation,” Mondelez International said in a statement. “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.”
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires that labels must clearly identify the ingredients included that are — or contain any protein derived from — the eight most common food allergens (including peanuts). However, as this tragic case shows, it’s up to the consumer to be extra-vigilant to make sure a warning is not missed.
“If you are in a different house, you have to be more careful and always ask and always look at the labels,” Dr. Adriana Bonansea-Frances, a Florida allergist-immunologist, told NBC 6.
Our hearts go out to Alexi Stafford’s family during this very difficult time.