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Salmonella outbreak closes restaurant

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NASHVILLE — Health officials have closed a popular barbecue restaurant due to a salmonella outbreak.

Doug Sauls’ Bar-B-Que & Seafood at 813 Western Ave. was closed Friday. As of Monday morning, no timeline existed as to when the business could serve food again, said Nash County Health Director Bill Hill.

The department suspended the restaurant’s food establishment operating permit pursuant to N.C. General Statute 130A-23 due to conditions present constituting an imminent health hazard, according to a press release issued by Larissa Williams, coordinator of health services for the health department.

The closure came after the N.C. Department of Agriculture Food Protection Division identified salmonella present in equipment and food that was likely to cause an immediate threat of serious adverse health effects, Williams said.

“This finding was reported as part of an investigation of a small but persistent number of infections identified to be Salmonella London, an uncommon type of salmonella,” Williams said. “Currently, 14 cases have been identified, and because 10 of them named this restaurant as a source of food in the days preceding illness, the investigation focused on this location.”

Restaurant owner Steve Sauls couldn’t be reached for comment.

On its Facebook page, Doug Sauls’ Bar-B-Que issued a public apology to anyone who had eaten at the restaurant and become ill.

“We will not be closing permanently, we will only be closing temporarily,” the statement reads in part. “Starting tomorrow, we will be sanitizing and fixing any problem in the restaurant.”

Hill said Sauls has worked with state and county health officials.

“The restaurant owner has been very cooperative, but based on these findings, it is imperative for the protection of the public that the restaurant be temporarily closed and identified violations must be corrected before the restaurant may reopen,” Hill said.

After determining the source of the outbreak, state health officials conducted environmental evaluations, including swabbing of multiple locations in the restaurant’s kitchen. The swab culture results were reported and included several that tested positive for salmonella, Williams said.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea that may be bloody, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection can result in more severe illnesses, according to information provided by the health department.

“Individuals who became ill with diarrhea within three days of eating food from this restaurant, and are still currently ill, should consult their physician,” Williams said. “Physicians can submit stool samples through the local health department for free testing at the State Laboratory of Public Health. It is also important for anyone who may have taken home leftovers from the restaurant to throw the food away.”

Doug Sauls’ Bar-B-Que has been in business since 1977. This is the first such incident to be reported at the restaurant, according to health officials.