Talk about killer service. Simon-Pierre Canuel of Sherbrooke, Quebec has a severe food allergy. A mistake made by waiter at a local restaurant landed Canuel in the hospital.  As he later told the Globe and Mail, “The server had almost killed me.”

Caneul was out dining one evening and was served salmon instead of beef. Despite alerting the server to his fish allergy, an error was made. One bite in a low-lit restaurant was all it took to put him into cardiac arrest and then a coma.

Caneul survived this brush with death. But the server has a big problem. He was arrested and is facing charges for criminal negligence for not noting the customer’s allergy and not telling the kitchen. This is a wake-up call for restaurateurs and servers. Civil liability is one thing but a criminal record is another matter.

As many as 2.5 million Canadians say they have at least one food allergy and many of them are children. Fish, nuts, and eggs are some of the most common allergens and reactions can range from mild irritation to death. An injection of epinephrine or adrenaline (an EpiPen) can help save lives but for those with such allergies, there is no cure. Avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. That’s why people with food allergies are so adamant about reading and knowing about the ingredients in every meal.

Those with food allergies take them very serious. So too should anyone in the food service industry. You may think it is just a dusting of walnut, a drizzle of peanut sauce, or a dab of seafood but to someone with a severe food allergy, it could be their last meal.

If someone you are serving says they have a food allergy, perk up and pay attention to their needs. Ask them how severe the allergy is. Ask if they have medication or an EpiPen on hand. Take all their questions about the menu and talk to the kitchen staff about the ingredients. If there are any doubts about any of your menu items, recommend safer choices. And keep a supply of antihistamines on hand for mild allergic reactions.

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