South Florida teen with peanut allergy dies after eating Chips Ahoy cookie

Posted at 9:00 AM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 13:05:22-04

A South Florida teen died after she took one bite of a Chips Ahoy cookie with peanut butter, and now her mother is calling for the company to make distinguishable packaging for cookies with allergens.

Ryann Stafford, 15, of Weston, Fla., made the fatal mistake when she was at a friend's house and reached into an open package of chewy Chips Ahoy Reese's peanut butter cookies, thinking it was safe for her to eat because of the familiar red packaging.

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"She started feeling tingling in her mouth and came straight home," her mother, Kelli Travers-Stafford, wrote in a Facebook post Thursday. 

Her parents administered two EpiPens. Alexi quickly went into anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and went unconscious. 

She died on June 25, within one and a half hours of eating that cookie.

Her mother, shocked and angry, took to Facebook to call for awareness and to warn other parents.

"As a mother who diligently taught her the ropes of what was okay 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," Kelli 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."

Kelli then posted photos of the chewy Chips Ahoy Reese's peanut butter cookies side-by-side with the regular chewy kind. Both variations have very similar red packaging. She also showed the almost-identical brown packaging of the regular and peanut butter variations of Chips Ahoy's soft chunky cookies.

NBC 6 has reached out to the Stafford family, who requested privacy at this time.

Adriana Bonansea-Frances, who specializes in allergies and immunology, told NBC 6 it's important for people with allergies to be overly careful.

"If you are in a different house, you have to be more careful and always ask and always look at the labels," she said.

The post has garnered over 40,000 likes and 67,000 shares as of Monday night, with many on social media calling for the company to change its packaging so consumers can distinguish the cookies with allergens from the ones without.

"We take allergens very seriously," Chips Ahoy wrote in response to users' demands. "Chewy Chips Ahoy! made w/ Reese's Peanut Butter Cups packaging clearly shows that it contains peanuts through words and visuals. Package color indicates Chewy, Chunky, or Original. Consumers should always read the label for allergy information."

WTVJ in Miami received the following statement from Chips Ahoy's parent company, Mondelez:

We were very saddened to hear about this situation, which we first became aware of from social media posts last Friday.

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).

Across our Chips Ahoy! portfolio, packaging color is a cue for product texture (i.e., Chewy, Chunky, Original) and is not indicative of the presence of allergens. 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.

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.

Courtesy of our news partner in NBC Miami