Quebec waiter arrested for serving fish to allergic customer

Press release

Restaurant staff “Often inadequately trained to cope with life-threatening food allergies” says Dr. Andrea Shainblum of Allercom Allergy Consulting, Inc.

CBC News, the Canadian Press and other national news outlets are reporting that police in Sherbrooke, Quebec have arrested a waiter at Le Tapageur Restaurant for allegedly serving salmon to an allergic customer in May, 2016. The waiter potentially faces charges of criminal negligence. This is a Canadian first and could set new legal precedents relating to food allergies and food service providers.

The customer, Simon-Pierre Canuel, reportedly ordered steak tartare and informed the waiter in advance that he had life-threatening allergies to fish and seafood. According to several news reports, the waiter did not inform kitchen staff of Canuel’s allergies, and served him his order without verifying that it was safe.

After taking a single bite of his meal, Canuel suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction and was rushed to the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke. He ended up in a coma and later suffered cardiac arrest. “I almost died,” he told CBC News.

“The food service industry needs to do a lot more to adapt to the reality of severe food allergies,” says Dr. Andrea Shainblum, owner of Ottawa-based Allercom Allergy Consulting, Inc. “It was only a matter of time before an incident like this ended up in criminal court, and it’s likely just the first of many.”

Though the incidence of severe allergies to foods like peanuts, nuts, fish, seafood, milk and sesame has escalated dramatically over the last 30 to 40 years, restaurants and other food service establishments may not be adapting fast enough.

”Restaurant kitchen staff and servers are often inadequately trained to cope with life-threatening food allergies,” says Shainblum. “But this is the new normal in food service. One in every fourteen of your customers could have a severe, life-threatening food allergy. Restaurant owners need to know how to protect them from harm, and also protect themselves and their employees from civil and criminal liability.”

About Allercom Allergy Consulting

Allercom Allergy Consulting, Inc., is owned by Andrea Shainblum, Ph.D., a university researcher, educator, and consultant. Canada’s first private allergy coach/consultant, she trains the hospitality industry, as well as schools, daycares, and camps to implement best-practices in reducing allergy risk. Shainblum is ServSafe trained in Allergens Training and Assessment by the National Restaurant Association.

Shainblum herself has suffered from multiple life-threatening food allergies (including anaphylaxis to peanuts, tree nuts, and sesame) as well as environmental allergies including dog dander, dust, and tree pollens, since the age of two. She prides herself on not only surviving, but thriving despite these allergies for over forty years — half of these being years during which epinephrine auto-injectors weren’t yet available!

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