A Florida mother is urging parents to be extra careful when reading ingredient lists on food packaging.
On June 25, Kellie Travers-Stafford’s teen daughter Alexi Ryann Stafford, died after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a Chips Ahoy! cookie with peanuts. In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Stafford said her daughter accidentally ate a cookie from a package that she and her husband had previously deemed “safe.”
“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’ to her,” she wrote on the social media site. “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.”
Stafford continued that her daughter started to feel a tingling sensation in her mouth and went straight home. Unfortunately, her condition began to deteriorate and by an hour and a half after her first bite, she had died.
“She went into anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and went unconscious. We administered two EpiPens while she was conscious and waited on paramedics for what felt like an eternity.”
In a statement to Today.com, the cookie maker’s parent company, Mondelez International, noted consumers should always read packaging labels before eating a product.
“We were very saddened to hear about this situation,” the statement notes. “We always encourage consumers to read the packaging labelling when purchasing and consuming any of our products for information about product ingredients, including the presence of allergens.”
And although the Stafford family pointed out that a red package meant safe to eat, the company stressed package colours are based on cookie types — not ingredients. “ prominently indicates, on both the front and side panels, the presence of peanut butter cups through both words and visuals.”
A coloured package simply means the cookie is chewy or chunky, the company notes, and in this case, red meant chewy.
But Stafford said this isn’t enough.
“The company has different coloured packaging to indicate chunky, chewy, or regular but no screaming warnings about such a fatal ingredient to many people. Especially children,” she wrote. “It’s important to us to spread awareness so that this horrible mistake doesn’t happen again.”
There are some common recommendations for helping to educate children on safety managing food allergies.
Beatrice Povolo, director of advocacy and media relations at Food Allergy Canada, tells Global News for any child who has an allergy, parents (and their children depending on the age) should practice a triple check when it comes to labels.
“Check at the store, check before you put the product away and check again before you serve,” she tells Global News. “This seems to be something that sticks.”
For parents with younger children in particular, this could also mean teaching them exactly what they are allergic to and helping them understand how to read those words on packages.
“This also includes not accepting food from others in a school setting or outside of school or sending kids to events with their own snacks,” she explains, adding that often, when it comes to birthday parties or field trips, parents should be sending along food their child can eat.
Parents should also let schools, teachers and other parents know about their child’s allergies.
“Managing food allergies, especially for children, is a shared responsibility, requiring the support of others to help keep them safe.”
Global News has reached out to Mondelez International but has yet to receive a comment.
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