Food inspectors in Mecklenburg and neighboring counties have been busy in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention. Not only have they been checking out restaurants, hotels, and caterers, but they're also keeping tabs on barbecue.
Food inspectors have long been gearing up for the DNC. But in the two weeks leading up to the big event, the Food and Drug Administration told county health departments within a 30 mile radius of Charlotte to ramp up their restaurant and hotel inspections.
"Those are establishments that require a whole lot of food preparation and cooking and cooling," says David Troutman, who oversees food inspections at the Cabarrus Health Alliance.
Last week, his department inspected 35 restaurants. And they did something they rarely do. The FDA asked them and other local health departments to take a few samples of food and ship them to a lab to be inspected for bacteria, radiation, and other contaminants. Barbecue and cole slaw made it on the shortlist.
"Mainly because they're considered ethnic Southern foods," says Troutman.
The thought being all those DNC visitors will want to get a taste of the Carolinas and barbecue is what they associate with that, even if it's not what Charlotte's known for. The FDA has asked for samples from 20 randomly selected barbecue restaurants in the Charlotte area. Around Tampa, the list for samples includes seafood and cut melons.