British dancer, 25, with severe peanut allergy dies after eating mislabelled cookie in US as family pays tribute

26 January 2024, 06:51

A family has paid tribute to Órla Baxendale after she died from eating a mislabelled cookie.
A family has paid tribute to Órla Baxendale after she died from eating a mislabelled cookie. Picture: Instagram

By Jenny Medlicott

A ballet dancer from east Lancashire has died after eating a cookie in the US that had failed to list peanuts as one of its ingredients.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Órla Baxendale, 25, went into anaphylactic shock on January 11 after eating a vanilla florentine cookie from US supermarket chain Stew Leonard’s.

Ms Baxendale, who moved to New York in 2018 to pursue a dance career, had eaten the cookie in Connecticut, state health officials said.

She had been preparing for a performance in a dance adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, her family said.

The cookies contained peanuts, despite the nut not being listed in the ingredients.

An EpiPen was used but failed to save her.

Stew Leonard Jr, the president and chief executive of the retailer, said in a video shared on Wednesday that their supplier Cookies United had changed the recipe from soy nuts to peanuts without notifying their chief safety officer.

But Cookies United said in a statement that it notified Stew Leonard’s last July of the change and that all products had been shipped with the correct labels. It claimed the incorrect label had been created by the chain.

Stew Leonard's has since recalled 500 packages of the cookies which were sold between 6 November and 31 December in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration.

Órla died after eating a mislabelled cookie.
Órla died after eating a mislabelled cookie. Picture: Instagram

Ms Baxendale's family said in a statement: "Órla was truly one of a kind. She was a beautiful, radiant, brave soul who always believed she would achieve her biggest dreams - and that's exactly what she did. 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.

"It is incomprehensible that allergies can take lives in 2024, and 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.

"We have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of messages coming in from across the world, from all the people who loved Órla and will never forget meeting her or seeing her dance. It is clear that she meant so much to so many people, with her mesmerising talent, her cheeky nature and her incredible compassion for others.

"The truth is Órla got more out of life in 25 years than most do in a lifetime, and she will now live on in all our hearts forever."

Her family paid tribute.
Her family paid tribute. Picture: Instagram

Ms Baxendale’s former dance school said she was a “shining light” as they paid tribute.

"Orla 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.

"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."