(Andy Bronson/The Herald)

Grilled cheese under scrutiny in Quebec after seniors’ choking deaths

Coroner has said sandwich appears to pose a particular choking risk to the elderly

Health officials in Quebec confirmed Monday they are revisiting the place of the grilled cheese sandwich on menus in care facilities following the choking deaths of at least two elderly residents in recent years.

A coroner concluded earlier this year that the sandwich appears to pose a particular choking risk to the elderly after two residents of the same St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., care home died in similar circumstances, three years apart.

Coroner Andre-H. Dandavino recommended that both the local health authority and the provincial Health Department review the risks associated with grilled cheese sandwiches following the deaths of Clemence Thibodeau in 2015 and Monique Leboeuf in 2012.

“The grilled cheese sandwich seems to be problematic and risky for the elderly,” he wrote in his report.

Thibodeau, who was 78, died in hospital the day after getting part of a sandwich stuck in her throat at the care home where she lived, the report said.

The woman, who suffered from a long list of health problems including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as heart, kidney and breathing problems, had been previously evaluated and deemed able to swallow textured foods and eat on her own as long as she was supervised and the meal was cut up.

READ MORE: Death at Victoria long-term care home under investigation

Leboeuf, for her part, began coughing and choking after eating a grilled cheese sandwich in Dec. 2012 and later stopped breathing, even though the obstruction was cleared.

Dandavino ruled it was “a violent death by asphyxia from a foreign body.”

Martine Lesage, a spokeswoman for the regional health authority, said it has since removed grilled cheese from the menu for residents who are on a soft food diet, because “it can form a ball in the mouth that can be more difficult to swallow.”

She said the province’s health department is also finalizing a wider action plan to minimize choking risks that includes information about the risks of sandwiches, including grilled cheese, and more staff training on general food and choking safety and best practices.

But she said the residences also take people’s preferences into account, and will work with residents to make it safe for them to eat their favourite foods even if they aren’t on an approved list.

Nalini Sen, the research program director at the Alzheimer Society of Canada, said people experiencing dementia can be especially prone to choking as the brain loses the ability to direct the body to chew and swallow.

She said that certain foods, including grilled or toasted breads, can be harder to swallow, but that simply banning certain foods isn’t the solution to mealtime challenges.

Rather, she advocates a more “person-centred approach” that includes paying attention to the mealtime environment, how food is prepared and presented and the person’s overall oral health.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Military called in to remove inert practice round found in Quesnel industrial park

A maintenance worker mowing the grass found the round, which turned out to no longer be explosive

Ranch Musings: No-till pasture rejuvenation and sivopasture trials

Columnist David Zirnhelt is hosting a field day Aug. 29 in Beaver Valley

Meet Tour de North cyclist Chris Fedoruk

Quesnel man is a community rider with this year’s Cops for Cancer team

Forestry Ink: Forest tenure changes are occurring throughout the world

Regular columnist Jim Hilton writes about forest tenure and ownership

Quesnel Safeway honours its volunteer shoppers

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Safeway’s volunteer shopper program

Disney Plus to launch in Canada in November

Analysts say latest streaming service may escalate cord cutting

Okanagan bus driver assaulted for asking patron not to smoke

59-year-old in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

B.C. sets rules for ride hailing, same minimum fee as taxis

Larger operating areas seen as threat by cab companies

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in B.C. backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Most Read