What to Keep in Mind When You See the Story of the Girl Who Died From a Peanut Chips Ahoy! Cookie

It was late at night and I was away with my sister-in-law for a girl’s weekend. I admit I may have even had a drink. In hindsight, I can tell you firmly this is not the time to order my groceries online, especially when you have a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy. I should have known better. After all, I am not just a food allergy mom, but a food allergy advocate who has met her share of parents who have lost a child due to food induced anaphylaxis. Still, I made an error that could have been fatal.

I placed the order for fruits, vegetables, a few staples and then decided to add ice cream cones to the mix. I vaguely remember clicking on the brand I knew to be safe and then placed the order. Two days later, I got what can only be described as an incredulous call from my husband saying, “Are you trying to kill Josh while you are gone?” Apparently, I had clicked in error on ice cream cones that came studded with peanuts. Not made in a factory, not “may contain,” but the actual peanuts themselves. Thankfully, my husband caught it before my son could have made himself an ice cream cone.

I’ve been thinking about my online shopping error when I read about the death of Alexi Stafford (age 15) who died recently due to an anaphylactic food allergy reaction. Alexi was at a friend’s house and mistakenly ate what she believed to be a plain chocolate chip cookie, however, this one contained peanuts. Her grieving mother took to social media to describe the Chips Ahoy! Red packaging which had lulled her daughter in to believing this was the safe snack she usually ate.

It is all too easy to paint the picture of a teenager, hungry and quick to grab a snack, glancing at a package that looked familiar and eating a cookie. It is so frightening that even a teenager trained to do everything “right” regarding her food allergy can so easily make a fatal mistake. The package was peeled back to access the cookies, so that all she could see was the red color packaging (the same color as the same brand safe cookies she usually ate at home).

Social media can be a wonderful way to spread awareness — the goal of the Stafford family was to share private details of a horrific event to prevent future tragedies. But it is truly a double-edged sword as many people online are saying because Alexi could read, she somehow deserves what happened to her. They also fault her mother. Both of these criticisms are reprehensible. As my own story illustrates, we are all fallible. No one is perfect, yet for food allergies, falling short of the mark of perfection can be deadly. When sharing the story on my website nonuttraveler.com, so many people came out of the woodworks to discuss similar “slip-ups” and near misses.

I am thankful this family came forward, not only so I can warn my peanut allergic 12-year-old son of Alexi’s mistake, but also because spreading awareness in the public space about the real dangers of food allergies is vital so that future tragedies can be avoided.

Follow this journey at The No Nut Traveler.

Twitter: @NoNutTraveler

Getty image by kaipong

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