GASTONIA, NC – A report from the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said Boston pork butts were behind an outbreak of Salmonella that sickened nearly 70 people in October 2014.

Officials with DHHS and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services launched a foodborne illness investigation after multiple individuals sought treatment for diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Most of the patients had attended a conference at Living Word Tabernacle Church in Bessemer City, NC from Oct. 1-5. Three people were hospitalized.

Health officials said a church member who prepared the meat cooked it overnight in a smoker a day before it was served; then returned the Boston Butts to the smoker on the day the meals were served. The reports states that some of the pork was not cooked through and was cooked longer. The meat was then taken to the church.

Approximately 400 people attended the church conference. Health officials said it is likely that more individuals were sickened, but those cases can't be confirmed because not all of the attendees were tested or sought treatment. In any case, the incident underscores the need for consumers to learn proper food handling techniques and practice food safety, health officials noted.