SHERBROOKE, , Que.—Police in an eastern Quebec town are investigating a young restaurant employee for alleged criminal negligence over a plate of salmon tartare they say was served to a severely allergic customer who then was hospitalized for weeks.
Sherbrooke police say the man ordered beef tartare at a local restaurant last May and specified numerous times to a waiter that he was allergic to both seafood and salmon.
A short time later, police say a plate of salmon tartare was brought to the table and the patron took a bite, unaware of what he’d been served because the lighting had been dimmed.
Police said the customer, Simon-Pierre Canuel of Gatineau, Que., fell ill and was hospitalized for several weeks, even falling into a coma for two days and suffering cardiac arrest.
Sherbrooke police opened an investigation on July 28 after receiving a formal complaint from Canuel.
In addition to filing a criminal complaint, Canuel says he plans to launch a civil suit.
Martin Carrier of the Sherbrooke Police said Thursday that he realizes the case is unusual.
But Carrier said the definition of criminal negligence in the Criminal Code allows for an arrest if there was carelessness or lack of action to ensure the health and safety of others.
Carrier said the waiter allegedly didn’t take any notes and the victim repeatedly warned the staffer about the allergy to ensure there wasn’t any cross-contamination in the kitchen.
“He didn’t take the time to write down the order, he just wrote tartare without make it clear it was beef tartare,” Canuel alleged on 98.5 FM in Montreal.
Police are recommending a criminal negligence charge, but Carrier said it will be up to Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions to determine whether charges will be laid.
Carrier said Thursday that police arrested a 22-year-old and released him on a promise to appear in court at a later date.
They also searched his home on Wednesday in Sherbrooke, about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
Police have not identified the waiter and the allegations have not been proven.
A CBC report said the complaint was against a waiter at Le Tapageur restaurant. Reached Thursday, the owner of the Le Tapageur refused to comment on the case.
Francine LaRochelle added she wouldn’t be making any further comment.