One Is Too Many: Deaths Related to Allergen Mislabeling

A few weeks ago, a friend texted me the news story of Órla Baxendale, a 25-year-old who suffered an allergic reaction after eating a cookie that was mislabeled as being peanut-free. Despite using her EpiPen, the U.K.-born dancer died of anaphylactic shock on the way to the hospital.

Like most people with severe allergies, Órla was always cautious when it came to checking her food labels for allergens. The cookie contained peanuts, though mislabeled as soy nuts by Stew Leonard, a Northeast American grocery chain. The attorney representing Orla’s family relayed, “They're too distraught to speak. They want this story out so it doesn't happen again.”

At Allera, we, like Orla’s family, do not want this tragedy to repeat. As someone who has almost died from allergic reactions, stories like these always rock me to my core. They leave me feeling grateful for my own life but also a burden to prevent allergic reactions for people like me.

Allera is taking three tangible steps toward preventing allergen recalls due to mislabeling.

  1. Hosting Panels on Labeling With Industry Leaders

Allera understands that education is a crucial first step to preventing mislabeling incidents. We are committed to fostering awareness and understanding within the industry by hosting panel discussions on accurate labeling practices. These panels will focus on best practices around labeling and potential pitfalls around mislabeling. By creating this space for open dialogue, Allera aims to promote a culture of responsibility and vigilance in the food manufacturing industry.

You can sign up to attend our first panel on labeling here.

  1. Continue to bridge the food allergy world with food manufacturing:

On December 4th, one of our advisors, Larry, wrote a post titled, “Why Are Allergen Recalls Still Happening?” There, he outlines the preventable nature of mislabeling along with the dangerous outcomes for the 30+ million Americans with food allergies. We believe that with more dialogue and connection between food manufacturers and end consumers with food allergies, more positive outcomes will emerge for both groups. Through our network of investors and customers, we’ll cultivate open dialogue between those two groups.

  1. Commit to leveraging technology to reduce mislabeling:

Lastly, Allera’s built a platform for serving companies with QA/production documentation and supplier management. We see ample opportunities to optimize the processes from supplier to fork, especially around mislabeling. We’ll be working with our customers and software team to leverage innovation toward a more robust labeling system.

Through these three pillars, Allera is actively contributing to the collective effort to prevent mislabeling incidents and enhance overall food safety in the food manufacturing industry. Together, we can create a future where tragedies like Órla Baxendale’s are prevented through proactive measures and a commitment to excellence in food safety.

if you'd like to see a certain expert join us on our panel on labeling, please mention them here!