The Durham County Health Department recently announced that it had concluded the investigation into a Salmonella enteritidis outbreak among customers of the Bullock’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant located at 3330 Quebec Drive in Durham.  

Among the investigation’s findings was that the cause of the Salmonella outbreak was most likely commercially manufactured egg whites that were used to make meringue used by the restaurant.  The health department stated in a press release that the outbreak “was probably not introduced through improper food handling practices by Bullock’s staff or through faulty or contaminated equipment.”

Investigators looking into the source of the Salmonella outbreak found that 65 people who had eaten at Bullock’s restaurant between April 20 and 24 met the case definition of gastrointestinal illness after consuming food prepared at Bullock’s during that time frame.  They examined food preparation procedures and kitchen equipment, and interviewed employees.  Laboratory analysis of samples was also conducted along with statistical analysis of food histories of ill Bullock’s restaurant patrons, which indicated that meringue was the outbreak source.

According to the Durham County Health Department, similar Salmonella enteritidis outbreaks in other locations throughout the country during that time period were identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  An epidemiologic analysis implicated a common ingredient as the source of these outbreaks:  commercially distributed pasteurized egg whites, sold by the same restaurant supplier, and manufactured in the same plant as the product delivered to Bullock’s.  

Salmonella enteritidis, which can cause fever, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea beginning 12 to 72 hours after consuming a contaminated food or beverage, is commonly associated with eggs or food items containing eggs.  The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most persons recover without antibiotic treatment.  However, the diarrhea associated with the illness can be severe, and the elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems may develop a more severe illness requiring hospitalization.

Investigators from Durham County, the North Carolina Division of Environmental Health, North Carolina Division of Public Health, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services were all involved in the Salmonella outbreak investigation and preparation of the final report.