It should have been a moment of bliss for Florida teenager Alexi Stafford. Instead, a sweet indulgence proved fatal.
When 15-year-old Alexi Stafford reached into a package of Chewy Chips Ahoy! cookies while she was at a friend’s house, she did not see that they contained an “added ingredient.”
That ingredient was Reese’s peanut butter.
“Our hearts are broken and we are still in shock. Our whole lives we dedicated to keeping our child safe from one ingredient, peanuts,” the young woman’s mother, Kellie Travers-Stafford, wrote Thursday on Facebook.
“On Monday June 25, our 15-year-old daughter, Alexi Ryann Stafford, while at a friend’s house, made a fatal choice,” she continued. “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 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 peanut butter cups/chips,” the mom went on. “She started feeling tingling in her mouth and came straight home. Her condition rapidly deteriorated.”
The mother then shared the terrible result: Her daughter had died due to her ingestion of the allergen.
“She went into anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and [became] unconscious,” she said. “We administered two epi pens while she was conscious and waited on paramedics for what felt like an eternity. She died within one and a half hour of eating the cookie.”
Travers-Stafford called for stricter packaging guidelines to help prevent more peanut allergen deaths like her daughter’s.
“As a mother who diligently taught her the ropes of what was OK 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.”
“I want to share our story with everyone because we want to spread awareness,” the mother added. “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.”
“We take allergies very seriously and all of our products are clearly labeled on the information panel of the packaging for the major food allergens in the U.S. (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans),” the company said.
“We always encourage consumers to read the packaging labeling when purchasing and consuming any of our products.”
“Across our Chips Ahoy! product portfolio, packaging color is indicative of product texture (i.e., Chewy, Chunky, Original) and is not indicative of the presence of allergens,” it continued.
“The packaging for Chips Ahoy! made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups prominently indicates, on both the front and side panels, the presence of peanut butter cups through both words and visuals,” it went on.
“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 company added.
The Stafford family is accepting donations for their daughter’s funeral and associated bereavement costs through GoFundMe.