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Illnesses prompt inspection of noted Durham BBQ joint

Posted April 27, 2010
Updated April 28, 2010

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— The Durham County Health Department is investigating Bullock's Barbecue restaurant after 15 people were sickened there last week, officials said Tuesday.

Seven people were hospitalized for dehydration because of vomiting and diarrhea, said Gayle Harris, Durham County health director.

To pinpoint the source of the food-borne illness, inspectors spent three hours Monday examining food preparation and storage at Bullock's, Harris said. They also are interviewing people who became ill and others who ate at the restaurant since April 20 and didn't get sick.

Early laboratory results suggest Salmonella as the cause of the illnesses, officials said, but further confirmation at the North Carolina State Laboratory is necessary. The county was sending food and stool samples to the lab for testing.

Bullock's is a Durham institution that serves walk-in customers and has a booming catering business. Vice President Joe Biden ate at the restaurant in March during a visit to the Triangle.

Restaurant owner Tommy Bullock said he is distraught over the incident, and he is cooperating with the investigation.

The symptoms associated with the illness are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever that can last up to several days. The symptoms typically begin within 72 hours after exposure, but some people might not experience the symptoms for up to a week, officials said.

Young children, the elderly and people with underlying medical problems are at greater risk for dehydration and serious illness from food-borne infections and could require hospitalization, officials said. Replacing fluids with water and juices is important to prevent dehydration from any gastrointestinal illness.

Anyone who hasn't developed symptoms for a week following a meal from Bullock's has little risk of getting sick, officials said. People who have eaten food from the restaurant since April 20 and are experiencing symptoms of a food-borne illness are asked to call the health department at 919-560-7882 in addition to contacting their primary health care provider.


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  • discgolf9 Apr 29, 2010

    I delivered meat to Bullocks for many years and I have spent a lot of time in their kitchen and coolers, they are some of the cleanest around. If you are saying you would not eat here and have ever ate at a Chinese restaurant then you are simply ignorant.
    I think that the small detail that the people that got sick were all from the same party and that they picked up their take-out in a pickup truck to eat later that afternoon was left out on purpose, but I think most would agree that it's a crucial part of the story. I hear that the restaurant has been empty the past few days and this reporter is responsible. I talked to Tommy Bullock today and he is considering shutting the place down despite the fact that the investigation into the restaurant by the health department has come up with zero violations. Long live slimy, selfish news reporters whose only goal is to gain readers. So what if a Durham institution since the early '50's has to shut it's doors.

  • devilblue Apr 28, 2010

    Odell-especially as the weather has gotten warmer...may not have been in the meat at all. Mayo and or eggs can become pretty lethal if foods with them in it aren't kept at cool temps.

  • odell Apr 28, 2010

    It was from catered food. Who knows where it was stored after it left the restaurant.

  • devilblue Apr 28, 2010

    gfdorsey-why the heck would you keep eating somewhere that made you sick? Just because your friends wanted to eat there? Guess you would jump off a cliff with them too huh? Q-Shack tastes like charcoal-can't even taste the meat for the overpowering smoke taste. Each to his own I suppose.

  • gfdorsey Apr 28, 2010

    I've been getting sick from this place for a long time. I thought it was pork for a while, but when my friends would drag me there, I'd get sick from the other stuff too. I've never been sick from Q Shack or Danny's, so it's nice to see that someone is finally doing something about Bullocks.

  • whocares Apr 28, 2010

    I have been going to Bullock's since I was little. Mrs. Bullock went to school with my Dad. That was when it was over by what is now Morgan Motors on Hillsborough Rd, on the second floor of the building. There are not many family business left in Durham or anywhere. I hope everything turns out OK.

  • ccs1920 Apr 28, 2010

    Who writes these headlines? If I were the owner of Bullock's, I would be contacting my attorney about the use of the word joint.

  • hp277 Apr 28, 2010

    My family got takeout from Bullock's last Thursday and the food was great. We have been happily eating there for years and will be there again soon. This is an isolated incident.

  • HadEnough Apr 28, 2010

    Anyone who thinks this is good food would probably think fried cow pods were good.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Apr 28, 2010

    Bullocks Barf-B-Que