Following the death of a young dancer from anaphylactic shock, Stew Leonard’s, in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, has issued a recall of Vanilla and Chocolate Florentine Cookies that were sold only at the grocer’s stores in Danbury and Newington, Conn., from Nov. 6 through Dec. 31, 2023. Stew Leonard’s sold about 500 packages of the limited-edition holiday cookies, which contain undeclared peanuts and eggs.
The vanilla cookies are believed to have caused a fatal allergic reaction that killed Òrla Baxendale, who had a severe peanut allergy, on Jan. 11. Baxendale, 25, was a native of East Lancashire, United Kingdom, who had come to New York to pursue a career as a dancer. Her family is represented by New York law firm Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman and Mackauf.
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In a Jan. 24 video statement posted on the Stew Leonard’s website, CEO Stew Leonard Jr. said that the outside supplier that made the cookies changed the recipe from soy nuts to peanuts, but the chief safety officer was never notified of the change. “We have a very rigorous process that we use, as far as labeling,” stressed Leonard. “We take labels very seriously, especially peanuts.” He described the Leonard family as being “devastated” by Baxendale’s death, and went on to assure customers that the food at Stew Leonard’s was safe and properly labeled.
According to Stew Leonard’s, it’s working with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and the cookie supplier to determine the cause of the labeling error. Customers who bought the recalled product can bring it back to Stew Leonard’s customer service for a full refund.
In response, the supplier, Cookies United, of Islip, N.Y., noted: “Stew Leonard’s was notified by Cookies United in July of 2023 that this product now contains peanuts, and all products shipped to them have been labeled accordingly. This product is sold under the Stew Leonard’s brand and repackaged at their facilities. The incorrect label was created by, and applied to, their product by Stew Leonard’s.”
Cookies United added that it is cooperating with the New York State Department of Agriculture “and [has] been informed we are in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations relating to this product.”
Norwalk, Conn.-based Stew Leonard’s has seven stores in Norwalk, Danbury and Newington, Conn.; in East Meadow, Farmingdale and Yonkers, N.Y.; and in Paramus, N.J., with an eighth store slated to open in Clifton, N.J., in 2024.