Local News

Illnesses prompt inspection of noted Durham BBQ joint

Posted April 27, 2010 3:05 p.m. EDT
Updated April 28, 2010 1:04 a.m. EDT

— 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.