Health department links undercooked and reheated barbecue linked to Salmonella illnesses

Growing up in Canada, barbecue was an event, or an outside cooking appliance. In North Carolina barbecue is a food.

And for some, sort of a religion.

Barbecue is made by slow cooking pork (often a whole hog) in a smoker for hours until the meat is tender enough to be pulled off of the bones. The kind I like is tossed in a vinegar and pepper sauce (that’s Eastern North Carolina style) and served with a couple of vegetable sides.bbq-tom-vin-m__05901.1405326372.1000.1200

Kind of like what led to almost 70 cases of salmonellosis last fall at a conference in Bessemer City, NC. According to the Gaston Gazette, the heath department’s investigation fingered the pork dish as the likely vehicle for the pathogen.

The investigation began after multiple people sought treatment for a stomach illness in early October.

The local health department collected information and found that many of the patients had attended a conference between Oct. 1 and 5 at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City.

A report released this week found that Boston butts prepared by a church member were the likely culprits.

The pork was cooked overnight in a smoker a day before it was served. Then it was returned to the smoker the day of the meals.

Some of the pork hadn’t cooked all the way through in time for lunch so it was cooked longer then taken to the church for dinner.

The church member who cooked the meat said it was cooked at 350 degrees the first night, but no cooking temperature was given for when the pork was put back on the grill the next day.

Three people were hospitalized.

The purpose of the health department study isn’t to cast blame. It’s to educate, according to health officials.

The church was not required to have a permit to serve the food because the meals were free, but proper food preparation and storage should always be observed, said Samantha Dye with Gaston County Health and Human Services.

15 hospitalized in North Carolina after suspected food poisoning

I avoid potlucks like I avoid the plague: I don’t know how the person prepared the food or their general health status.

vomitFifteen people were taken to hospitals Thursday morning after becoming sick at a U.S. Postal facility in west Mecklenburg County, N.C.

Medic, Mecklenburg County’s EMS agency, said they transported 15 people from the U.S. Postal facility around 6 a.m. when they became ill after consuming leftovers from a Veterans Day potluck.

Medic said the victims’ sicknesses are not life-threatening.

Officials at the facility said nearly 200 employees participated in a potluck dinner Tuesday evening to honor co-workers who are veterans. Some of the food was refrigerated overnight Tuesday.

Salmonellosis outbreak linked to North Carolina church conference

Earlier this year, the Food Safety Summit, an annual gathering of food safety nerds dealt with an outbreak of foodborne illness amongst attendees. Over 100 became ill with C. perfringens  after eating a buffet meal. Conferences provide a nice environment for an outbreak – everyone eats sorta the same stuff and when things go bad, a lot of people get sick. salmonella

WSOCTV reports that Gaston County (NC) health officials are investigating an outbreak of salmonellosis that has been linked to a conference held Oct 1-5 at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, at least 50 attendees are reporting symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, seven cases of Salmonella were confirmed with a significant number of lab results pending and more samples being collected.

“Our public health staff is working closely with the church, the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and the community,” said Chris Dobbins, DHHS director. “Our priority is to identify those who have fallen ill, ensure they have received proper medical attention, and work together to identify a source so we can educate and prevent future outbreaks of this nature.”

108 sickened; court rules no negligence in E. coli outbreak at NC state fair

The North Carolina State Fair is not, according to Courthouse News Service, liable after more than 100 people became sick after an E. coli outbreak at its petting zoo in 2004, the state appeals court ruled.

The state’s health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the infection of 108 people to the petting zoo at the state fair in 2004. Jeff Rolan and dozens of others then sued the fair’s sponsor, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

amy_s_lamb_aug_121-300x225The North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled in favor of the state, noting that veterinarians prepared for the fair by checking the animals’ health and removing those that were sick. Also, a veterinarian posted additional signs warning patients to wash their hands and also added hand sanitizers to the petting zoo area.

In light of these facts, the commission determined that the state had taken precautions to protect the health of the patrons.
 The plaintiffs argued on appeal that the state should have taken additional cautionary measures, such as providing better supervision, erecting a fence between the children and the animals, and providing information on the risk of E. coli infection. A three-judge panel with the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s ruling on April 1.
”While it was certainly possible for defendant to take the additional precautions suggested by plaintiffs, we agree with the Commission’s conclusion that Defendant did not fail to act with due care in October of 2004 to minimize the risk of exposure to E. coli,” Judge Linda Stephens wrote for the court. “Sources cited by the Commission note that it is impossible to eliminate the risk of enteric pathogens, like E. coli, in human-to-animal contact settings without eliminating petting zoos altogether.” 

Then maybe they should be eliminated, or at least much better controlled.

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions


Zoonoses and Public Health

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. ‘It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the USA caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

No obvious links in Lexington North Carolina E. coli-like outbreak investigation: two with HUS

There are now three children in Lexington, NC showing symptoms consistent with a pathogenic E. coli infection. According to Fox 8, two of the children have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, the primary cause of kidney failure in this age group. Lexington_NC_Welcome

The Lexington Dispatch reports that the pathogen hasn’t even been confirmed and Davidson County health officials say that links to any specific food, site or activity have not been made.

Jen Hames, Davidson County’s health education supervisor, said county and state officials are trying to determine the commonality between the cases.

“At this point, we can’t find a connection to anything,” Hames said.

The Tyro students are still being treated for symptoms associated with the infection, which often causes acute or bloody diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps and low-grade fever.

Kirsti Clifford, a spokeswoman for the state department of health and human services, said lab tests did not confirm E. coli in the students. However, that could be due to the impact of the antibiotics the students are taking, which are designed to stop the bacteria from growing, Hames said.

It is curious as to why kids who are suspected of having a pathogenic E. coli were on antibiotics as they tend to lead to lysing of cells resulting in spreading the toxin and often worsen the symptoms.

Two children with pathogenic E. coli in Lexington, North Carolina

There aren’t many experiences worse than caring for an ill child. In my five years of fatherhood I’ve only dealt with my kids suffering through a handful norovirus infections and cut requiring 14 stitches. eb93a6c196ed6af475f736648daf1940_thumb

We’ve been lucky.

I get emotional when I read about others dealing with illnesses that are much scarier.

According to WFMY2 News, two children at Tyro Middle School in Lexington, NC are suffering from E. coli infections.

Jen Hames with the Health Department told WFMY News 2 the cases were reported to them on Friday. At this time, they are not sure if they were reported before or after the winter break.

The source in these cases is also unknown at this time.

Shelby NC church dinner outbreak report says source unclear

Fingering the source of an outbreak is tough. Sometimes the epidemiology is messy and the data doesn’t correlate specific foods to illnesses. In a week where the food safety world lost Bill Keene, a pioneer of solving outbreaks, a cluster of salmonellosis illnesses linked to a church dinner in Shelby, NC goes unsolved.full_4379

According to the Shelby Star, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health has released a report detailing the investigation of 104 illnesses associated with eating at fundraiser for Sandy Plains Church.

“Given the limited nature of the menu at this event, these findings are not surprising,” officials said in the health report. “Most barbecue patrons who were interviewed ate a majority, if not all, of the available food items except desserts.”

A study of 165 people who attended the event—both ill and not ill—was conducted by the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health. Out of that study, 104 cases met the definition of experiencing diarrhea within seven days of consuming food or drinks from the barbecue event.

“The PFGE pattern of these outbreak strains had only been seen on two other occasions outside of North Carolina, indicating that the source of the outbreak was something at the Sandy Plains barbecue and not a contaminated product from a different source,” the report reads.

71 now sick; Salmonella outbreak at church BBQ

The number of salmonella cases linked to a church barbecue fund raising event earlier this month at Sandy Plains Baptist Church in North Carolina has climbed to 71, with no leads on the cause.

But that didn’t stop a local NBC affiliate to quote those who would blame the consumer.

“I think if you just take some common steps — you look at the food when it’s served, if anything looks under cooked, if your doug.thermometerhamburger looks pink, if your chicken doesn’t look cooked, then send it back and ask it to be cooked until it’s not raw any more.”

That was from a communicable disease nurse, who should know that color is a lousy indicator and that tip-sensitive digital thermometers are required to confirm safety.

And these events have little or no food safety oversight.

Vera Vaughn is an environmental health specialist with the Beaufort County Health Department. She says, “There’s a general statute that allows not for profit organizations that are exempt from federal taxes to sell food for two consecutive days once a month — so it’s not regulated by anyone. We in Beaufort County have an application we ask folks to fill out — so that we know what’s going to happen, what food is going to be sold so if there were to be an outbreak — we can try to trace it back to what food item may have been served or sold.”

I’ve been cooking at the kids’ events for over 15 years – with a thermometer.

Fair manager resigns; food, water and animal safety is like that; it requires attention

After 106 people were sickened and a toddler died at last year’s Cleveland County Fair, manager Calvin Hastings has resigned before the next fair.

Hastings, who has served as fair manager since August 2011, is also president of KTC Broadcasting Inc. The company owns and operates the amy_s_lamb_aug_121-300x225“What’s Up Shopper” publication and radio stations WOHS in Shelby, WCSL in Cherryville and WLON in Lincolnton.

“Honestly, I’ve got too much to do,” Hastings told The Star on Thursday night.

In a press release, Hastings said his responsibilities with KTC Broadcasting take much of his time and the fair needs someone who can give it their full attention.

The Star asked Hastings if his resignation was connected to the fair’s connection to the E. coli outbreak.

“I can’t answer any E. coli questions,” Hastings said.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

103 sick from Salmonella at NC Holiday Inn; outbreak over

The Salmonella outbreak linked to a North Carolina Holiday Inn has been declared over with 103 sick, and no cause in sight.

The outbreak associated with the Holiday Inn Bordeaux was declared over by County Public Health Director Buck Wilson who stated there have been no Holiday Inn Bordeaux .North Carolinacases with onset after May 15.

Since May 1, officials have investigated 103 cases of people having symptoms consistent with salmonella.

The North Carolina epidemiology team is working on the final investigation report, which will be released upon being finalized.