It’s the worst fear of every parent of a child with a severe food allergy that despite their diligent teaching, their child will still end up eating something that poses a threat.
A heartbroken Florida mother is spreading awareness after her 15-year old daughter tragically died in late June from ingesting a Chips Ahoy! cookie that had Reese’s peanut butter bits in it in addition to the famous cookie’s standard chocolate chips.
In her now-viral Facebook post, Kellie Travers-Stafford wrote, “Our hearts are broken and we are still in shock. Our whole lives we dedicated to keeping our child safe from one ingredient, peanuts.”
Travers-Stafford goes on to detail how her daughter, Alexi, was at a friend’s house when she mistakenly ate a cookie that she believed to be “safe” for her. It didn’t take long for her to realize the error, and although she went straight home where her Epi-Pen shots were then administered, it wasn’t enough to save her.
Alexi died less than an hour and a half after eating the cookie.
Travers-Stafford also explains that part of the reason behind her daughter’s fatal mistake was confusion based on how similar the packaging is between the peanut-free cookies that were “safe” for Alexi to eat, and the kind that include peanut butter. Despite their vigilance in teaching their daughter how to look out for peanuts, it’s not a stretch that Alexi would have mistaken the familiar packaging.
In the side-by-side comparison photos that accompany the original post it’s easy to see how similar the packaging is, especially if the flap of the package has already been pulled back as happened in this situation.
While Traver-Stafford doesn’t directly accuse the manufacturers of being responsible for her daughter’s death, she does point out this serious flaw in their packaging in hopes that they will consider changing their design, thus preventing this type of mistake from happening again. “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,” she said.
As someone who has a severe peanut allergy myself, I can absolutely attest to the fact that some packaging is less than obvious about the added allergen. Small or camouflaged warnings can easily be missed at first glance.
In a world where food allergies are extremely common, yet often overlooked, it’s time for some serious conversations about how we can make this world safer for those affected by allergies. Perhaps a good place to start would be taking a look at food packaging practices.
Our hearts go out to Alexi’s grieving family and friends during this most difficult time.