Seven people have fallen ill -- with one of them in critical condition -- after eating at a restaurant in Montreal this past December.

The people contracted a toxic strain of E. coli bacteria, after eating raw meat at Marché 27 on Prince Arthur St., however the provincial government will not confirm that information.

The agriculture, fisheries and food ministry, MAPAQ, is responsible for verifying food safety in restaurants in Quebec, and officials with the agency have repeatedly told CTV News they will not confirm where those afflicted with the infection ate because there is no current contamination.

MAPAQ did confirm that everyone sick with E. coli O157:H7 had eaten at the same restaurant.

Restaurant owner Jason Masso has confirmed the seven people were infected at his restaurant.

"It's heartbreaking. Listen, I try, I haven't been sleeping in a few days and I have to find a way to make it up to them," said Masso. "It's not my fault, but I am to blame. They came to eat at my restaurant and it's something I take to heart."

Masso acknowledged there will always be a risk of falling ill while eating tartare, but said his restaurant has specialized in raw meat for six years without any other serious incidents.

"I cannot tell people there at 100 per cent risk of not catching anything. They're eating raw meat," said Masso.

Masso said he believed the problem would ultimately be traced to the slaughterhouse or the butcher who provided the meat.

However, two food inspection agencies have determined that Masso's supplier, Viandes Decarie, is operating a clean facility.

"Two investigations conducted jointly by the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and the MAPAQ (Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Quebec / the agriculture, fisheries and food ministry of Quebec) have led to the conclusion that, based on analysis performed to date, our company is not involved in any way in the cases described and is therefore not held liable in this matter."

The situation is now under control at the restaurant according to Danielle Ramsay of the Quebec Food Inspection Agency.

Nurse hospitalized

One of those afflicted, a nurse, is still in hospital in critical condition.

An E. coli infection frequently results in bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting, but can also lead to kidney failure and anemia.

E. coli contamination usually occurs when feces from cattle comes into contact with meat and other food.

It can be eliminated by cooking food to a temperature of 71 degrees Celsius. For most cuts of meat ensuring the external temperature is hot enough suffices, but new tenderizing techniques can cross-contaminate meat, requiring it reach an internal temperature of 71 degrees Celsius to be safe.

So far it is unclear how the contamination occurred at Marché 27.

Tonnes of beef were recalled last year after an E. coli contamination case at an Alberta meat packing plant.