Servers across the province of Quebec can breathe a sigh of relief — a 22-year-old who accidentally served salmon tartare to a customer with a seafood allergy won’t be getting charged with criminal negligence.
Sherbrooke newspaper La Tribune reports that a spokesperson for Quebec’s office of criminal and penal prosecutions made the announcement yesterday, saying that no criminal activity had occurred.
In case you missed it, back in late May, 34-year-old Simon-Pierre Canuel went to eat at La Tapageur, a tapas restaurant in Sherbrooke, about two hours east of Montreal. He ordered a beef tartare and flagged his seafood allergy to the server.
That’s where the problems started: the server reportedly brought him salmon tartare, and Canuel said that due to the restaurant’s dim lighting, he inadvertently took a bite and went into anaphylactic shock. Canuel wasn’t able to be treated immediately since he had left his EpiPen (the adrenaline injecting device used to relieve such violent reactions) in the car. Canuel was taken to hospital where he remained for weeks, even spending a few days in a coma.
None of this received much attention at the time, but fast forward to August, and the tartare hit the fan when it was widely reported that Sherbrooke police arrested the server and launched an investigation for criminal negligence. Police even searched the young server’s house — although what exactly they were hoping to find (mounds of order pads with the word “beef” scratched out and “salmon” written in?) remains a mystery.
As CTV Montreal reported, restaurants across Quebec then proceeded to freak out about the arrest, worrying that it would set a precedent for servers being jailed en masse for any miscommunication around an allergy.
The story then proceeded to get a little weird, as Canuel’s lawyers sent a letter to La Tapageur demanding compensation for the tartare incident. This sparked rumours that Canuel — who CBC reported had suffered similar reactions in the past — had poisoned himself for the money. The rumours were questionable though, since there was no proof that Canuel had ever cashed in his allergy for money in the past.
The outcome seems to have satisfied most restaurant owners: Sonia Bolduc at La Tribune reached out to numerous restaurateurs in Sherbrooke to gauge reaction and it was fairly unanimous. Owner of Sherbrooke bistro Café Pierre Jean Jase Caroline Pfeuti said it would have struck fear into restaurateurs and their staff, possibly driving young people looking for server jobs away.
Speaking in French, owner of the popular sandwich store La Fine Bouche, David St-Amour, said some good had come out of the debacle. He pointed out that any server who saw the story would have been reminded of the importance of taking allergies seriously, but also that it provided a chance to remind customers of the realities of a kitchen — that is, it’s pretty tough to create a perfectly sterile and allergy-safe zone without installing some sort of futuristic vacuum chamber to serve as a seafood- or nut-free zone.