A 22-month-old tot risks losing her oesophagus after being served industrial-grade detergent instead of apple juice at a fine-dining restaurant.
The toddler, named as Elisabeth, is no longer “between life and death”, according to her dad, but she “risks losing her oesophagus”. According to the latest information, she is currently in an induced coma.
The incident took place at the La Fontaine aux Bretons restaurant in the coastal town of Pornic in France’s western Loire-Atlantique department on Thursday 1st August and the young girl’s father told local newspaper Ouest-France that at first “I thought it was alcohol.”
He added: “When I tasted it, I burnt my lips, my wife nearly swallowed some.”
When the little girl drank it – and immediately regurgitated it – “the product went through her dress and burnt her skin.”
The father said: “Simple washing up liquid does not do this.”
The tot was taken to the emergency department at the University Hospital of Nantes.
The restaurant at first posted a message on Facebook saying: “Today, a child was poisoned in our restaurant. The firefighters intervened very quickly and took her to hospital. The poisoning occurred during lunch when a drink was ingested.
“We, the team of the Fontaine aux Bretons, are heartbroken by this accident and our thoughts are with this child and her family. In the hope of having positive news in the coming hours, we are at the complete disposal of the parents. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of this accident.”
The father, quoting doctors, told local media that his child “risks losing her oesophagus”.
According to police, the product was an “industrial-grade detergent for dishwashers containing caustic soda”.
Caustic soda is also known as sodium hydroxide or lye and it can cause serious chemical burns.
The dangerous product had reportedly been “poured into a container by one employee, put in a refrigerator by another and served up by a third worker.”
The police said the incident was not “bad luck but rather serious negligence.”
On Saturday 3rd August, the restaurant posted an update on its Facebook page, saying: “… Little Elizabeth’s dad has kindly informed us of the evolution of the situation. The little girl is hospitalised in Nantes. She is sedated and under respiratory assistance. Her condition is stable.”
“She will undergo further examinations at the beginning of the week. Her parents are well and are at her bedside along with her sister. We are trying to accompany them to the best of our ability. Regarding the establishment, we initiated yesterday morning and in all the teams at the Fontaine aux Bretons – restaurant / residence / gardens – a complete overhaul of our security procedures. Over time, these approaches will be supplemented by specialists from outside the institution if necessary. Our goal is that such a situation never happens again.
“Regarding the accident, the investigation is still ongoing. We will only share here our assumptions:
A succession of actions, by different people, during a sustained service, is certainly at the root of the tragedy that led to a dishwasher product being served (identical to that found in all restaurants) instead of our homemade fruit juice. We are cooperating with the police who will establish the exact circumstances. For the time being, we are doing our best to meet the many demands of journalists and the authorities, without forgetting to serve our customers.
“We thank you very much for worrying about Elisabeth and her family. We thank you for all the support you are giving us. If some of you wish to, we would ask you to join with us and focus your thoughts on wishing Elisabeth a speedy recovery.”
The father told French radio RTL today (Monday) that “she is going to have very severe burns”.
The family of the victim have reportedly filed a complaint. The young girl is scheduled to have further examinations today (Monday) before being transferred to a hospital in Paris, where the family live, according to reports.
Contacted by Central European News (CEN), a staff member for the venue, a gastronomic and fine-dining hotel and restaurant, said that the “whole team is devastated” and that the sanitation authorities had inspected the venue, adding that they were “waiting for their report.”
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