March 21, 2018

Final Report on Sandy Plains Baptist Church Salmonella Outbreak

The Cleveland County Health Department has issued its final report on the Salmonella outbreak at the Sandy Plains Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina. The outbreak occurred in September 13, 2013. A total of 104 cases of Salmonella were reported.

SalmonellaPatients experienced diarrhea within seven days after eating food or beverage at the church barbecue fundraising event. The patient age range was from 3 years to 85 years; median age was 54.5 years. Fifty-four percent of the cases were female. The case count by county was: Rutherford (52), Cleveland (45), McDowell (1), Mecklenburg (1), Gaston County (2), and Spartanburg in South Carolina (1).

A case control study was launched. Patients were interviewed. A list of food items served during the barbecue was provided. The PFGE pattern of the outbreak strain of Salmonella in sick patients 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 investigation did not identify one particular food or beverage that would explain the outbreak. Public health officials said that “given the limited nature of the menu at this event, these findings are not surprising.”

The recommendations from the report were as follows. Nonprofit operations are exempt from inspection. But these events usually serve large numbers of people and utilize untrained personnel, so “consideration should be given to requiring some formal oversight to ensure food safety.” Organizations exempt from health inspections should partner with local food safety experts for recommendations and guidance. Children should not participate in food handling. A safe food menu should be planned, bearing in mind special requirements for meats, eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables. Food from home kitchens should not be served. And volunteers should be trained by food safety experts in the basics of safe food handling procedures.

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