Grieving mum warns about unclear food packaging after teen's death

Alexi Ryann Stafford, 15, died after eating a cookie from a brand she thought were safe for her to eat.
Alexi Ryann Stafford, 15, died after eating a cookie from a brand she thought were safe for her to eat. Photo: GoFundMe/Alexi Ryann Stafford

It's the kind of tragedy that petrifies every food allergy parent on the planet. Floridia teenager Alexi Ryann Stafford died on June 25, after eating a cookie she thought was safe.

Alexi, who had a severe peanut allergy, was at a friend's house when she was offered the treat from a packet of Chips Ahoy! cookies. The 15-year-old was familiar with the brand and the red packaging and had been told by her parents they were fine for her to eat.

Tragically, the part of the packaging that showed this particular packet also contained Reece's Peanut Butter cups had been rolled back.

Within an hour-and-a-half of eating a single cookie, the teenager had passed away, despite her parents' best efforts to save her. 

It's easy to see why Alexi made the deadly mistake; the similarities between the regular cookie and the versions containing peanuts can be seen in the pictures posted by Alexi's mum Kellie Travers-Stafford, below.

The devastated mum wrote in a post on Facebook, "On Monday June 25, our 15 year old daughter, Alexi Ryann Stafford, while at a friends house, made a fatal choice. 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."
Kellie recounts their desperate attempts to save their daughter.

"She started feeling tingling in her mouth and came straight home. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. She went into Anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and went unconscious. We administered 2 epi pens while she was conscious and waited on paramedics for what felt like an eternity. She died within one-and-a-half hours of eating the cookie."

Despite their best efforts to educate Alexi, Kellie says that these accidents can so easily occur.

"The company has different coloured packaging to indicate chunky, chewy, or regular but NO screaming warnings about such a fatal ingredient to many people."

Kellie's post has attracted many critical comments blaming the parents and Alexi herself. Such comments ignore the fact that navigating product packaging is incredibly difficult and can mean the difference between life and death for food allergy families. 

Teens are the highest risk category for fatal food allergy incidences as they have greater independence and are influenced primarily by peers. It's a reminder that even the most vigilant can make mistakes, and that companies have a duty to provide unambiguous packaging for the safety of the vulnerable.

Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe, which has raised nearly double the initial $15,000 target.