A teenager from Florida tragically lost her life last month after consuming an allergen contained in a packet of cookies. 15 year old Alexi Ryann Stafford dipped into a ‘Chips Ahoy’ cookie pack at a friend’s house, not knowing that it contained Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups chips. She didn’t check the package because she had consumed the same cookies in similarly colored packaging before.
Once she had a bite, her tongue began to tingle and she rushed home. Her parents immediately administered two epi pens but they did not work. Alexi went into anaphylactic shock and started having trouble breathing. The teenager then fell unconscious and, within an hour, was pronounced dead. Her parents had called paramedics but they could not get to the scene on time.
Her mother shared this story in a Facebook post in which she warned other parents about the packaging. She also said that Alexi had been trained to recognize products which contained peanuts but had just missed this one. The heartbroken mom also explained that her daughter could not have seen the allergen indicator since there was only one reference to it, and that too on the ‘pull-back’ section of the cookie packet.
While her post gathered its fair share of condolences, there were commenters who pointed out that the packaging could not be blamed. They said that while the package was red, it also had a ‘giant’ label that said ‘Reese’s’ and also had pictorial depictions of both the peanut butter cups and the peanuts in the cookie. Many commenters sympathized with Alexi’s mother but made it clear that her daughter should have been more cautious and alert with the cookie packet.
One user commented, “It has reese cup pictures all over instead of anchors AND the reese’s logo takes up 1/3 of the front of the package…” while another wrote, “It does have a Reeses label almost as big as the chips ahoy label…” These were some of the more empathetic comments. There were other users who expressed their disdain at Alexi’s ‘mistake’ in harsher words. One such user wrote, “Really??? Cry me a fucking river, you moron You must always blame somebody” and another wrote that it was ‘no way the company’s fault.’
Speaking of the company, ‘Chips Ahoy’s’ parent company, Mondelez International released an official statement about this tragedy. The statement said they were ‘saddened’ to learn about the situation and enforced that they ‘take allergies very seriously.’ They also said that all of their products ‘are clearly labeled on the information panel of the packaging for the major food allergens in the U.S.’ “On packaging for Chips Ahoy! made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, branding and flavor are prominently depicted in both words and visuals on the front and side panels,” the statement continued.
Mondelez International ended the statement by urging consumers to always ‘read the packaging labeling when purchasing and consuming any of our products for information about…ingredients.’ Their official position seems to be empathetic and also shirks off any blame on the corporation. This view has been taken up by most of the commenter’s on Alexi’s mom’s Facebook post as well.
Alexi’s mom called her daughter’s death a ‘horrible mistake’ and said she was a ‘kind, old soul.’ Alexi’s parents have started a GoFundMe page for her where they are trying to raise awareness for her condition and the dangers of overlooking familiar packaging. They are trying to also raise money for her funeral and for other expenses they might face.
Regardless of their position on the packaging debate, commenters are devastated at this unfortunate loss. Rest in Peace, Alexi.