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Lancashire ballet dancer dies after eating mislabelled cookie in US

A ballet dancer from East Lancashire has died in the US after eating a cookie that did not list peanuts as an ingredient.

Orla Baxendale, 25, suffered severe anaphylactic shock on 11 January after a severe allergic reaction to a vanilla florentine cookie from US supermarket chain Stew Leonard's.

Ms Baxendale, who moved to New York in 2018 to pursue a career as a dancer, had eaten the cookie at a social gathering in Connecticut, state health officials said.

The biscuit contained peanuts, but did not list the nuts as an ingredient.

Around 500 packages of the cookies that were sold between 6 November and 31 December have now been recalled in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration.

Stew Leonard Jr, the president and chief executive of the retailer, said in a video posted on Wednesday that their supplier Cookies United changed from using soy nuts to peanuts in the recipe without notifying their chief safety officer.

But Cookies United said in a statement that they notified Stew Leonard's last July that the product contained peanuts and that all products shipped to the retailer had been labelled accordingly.

The supplier said the incorrect label was created by Stew Leonard's.

Ms Baxendale's family said in a statement: "Órla was truly one of a kind. She was a beautiful, radiant, brave soul who always believed she would achieve her biggest dreams - and that's exactly what she did. She danced her way across the world and lived life to the fullest every day.

"We will never recover from the pain of having her taken from us so soon, in the prime of her life. But we are also so proud to call her our daughter and sister, and to have had the privilege of sharing 25 years with such an incredibly special person.

"It is incomprehensible that allergies can take lives in 2024, and we want to urge everyone to educate yourselves and those around you about anaphylaxis, how to use EpiPens and the early warning signs for severe allergic reactions.

"We have been overwhelmed by the hundreds of messages coming in from across the world, from all the people who loved Órla and will never forget meeting her or seeing her dance. It is clear that she meant so much to so many people, with her mesmerising talent, her cheeky nature and her incredible compassion for others.

"The truth is Órla got more out of life in 25 years than most do in a lifetime, and she will now live on in all our hearts forever."

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Meanwhile, Ms Baxendale's former dance school said it was "deeply saddened" by her death.

"Orla was born and raised in Manchester, UK and moved to New York in 2018 to join the Ailey family as a scholarship student.

"Since then, she had become an integral part of the New York dance world, pursuing her passion, shining her bright light, and doing what she loved most. She danced with numerous companies and choreographers.

"Her loss will be profoundly felt by her friends, colleagues, and all who knew her.

"We will remember her for her joyful spirit and boundless talent. Our thoughts are with her family at this devastating time."