Lancaster's BBQ Salmonella Outbreak LawsuitsOn January 10, 2012 Iredell County Health Department (ICHD) learned of 5 patients diagnosed with Salmonella who had experienced symptom onset around January 1. Patient isolates were at the North Carolina State Public Health Laboratory (NC PHL) for serotyping and molecular analysis. That same day ICHD received foodborne illness complaints from two patrons of Lancaster’s BBQ, a restaurant located in Mooresville. ICHD notified the North Carolina Division of Public Health that a foodborne illness outbreak might be underway. It was not until January 23 that local and state public health investigators felt there was sufficient evidence to launch an outbreak investigation. On that date the NC PHL had confirmed an indistinguishable strain of Salmonella Enteriditis in 6 patients. Investigators conducted patient interviews and discovered that all 6 individuals had eaten at the Lancaster BBQ Restaurant on one of two consecutive days, December 31, 2011 or January 1, 2012. Two other restaurant patrons were symptomatic but were not laboratory confirmed with Salmonella.
The team inspected the Lancaster BBQ on January 11, 2012 and found no critical food safety violations. A second visit was made on February 2, 2012. During this inspection multiple opportunities for cross contamination were observed including liquid from thawed poultry dripping on the floor of the walk-in cooler which was being tracked throughout the restaurant by employees. A single employee was responsible for grilling meats and for salad preparation. This employee was observed handling salad ingredients without wearing gloves, providing another opportunity for cross contamination.
Local and state public health investigators concluded that between Christmas 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012, an outbreak of Salmonella Enteriditis occurred among Lancaster BBQ customers. Ill patrons were much more likely to report eating salad and BBQ Pork Salad. Environmental investigations suggested that cross contamination was the likely cause of the outbreak.
Marler Clark represented multiple people made sick in this outbreak. On June 4, 2012 the law firm filed a Salmonella lawsuit against Lancaster's BBQ on behalf of a North Carolina couple. That claim has been resolved.