This grilling hazard is sending people to the hospital
But not all grilling experiences end with such joy. In fact, some incidents result in visits to the hospital as a result of wire bristle barbecue brushes.
Yes, adults and children alike are ingesting the pesky bristles that break off from these brushes when they're used to clean grills. These bristles are evidently embedding themselves into food and in turn, people's bodies. One study found U.S. emergency rooms reported more than 1,600 wire bristle grill brush injuries between 2002 and 2014.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention morbidity and mortality report from 2012 highlights the issue, citing cases from March 2011 to June 2012. "The severity of injury ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergent surgery," according to the report.
Even as recently as this month there have been severalreports of wire bristle hospitalizations. One Canadian woman wrote a Facebook post pleading with people to never use a metal barbecue brush after her son got a bristle stuck in his throat.
"Just minutes after eating BBQ chicken last night Ollie started crying and complaining there was something stuck and hurting his throat," Jenna Kuchik wrote. "X-ray confirmed a few hours later that there was indeed a metal bbq brush bristle in my little boy's throat. Throughout the 2 hours at the hospital Ollie couldn't swallow and kept gagging and spitting," she added. Kuchik said the family now owns a wooden barbecue grill cleaner.
The good news? There are ways you can prevent this from happening.
Dr. Mott Blair, a Wallace, North Carolina-based family physician, uses a brush himself when grilling, but has been more cautious as he's read about these incidents. That makes even more sense when you think about what he has seen in his practice – like a piece of bone stuck in the back of someone's throat. He says you have to be cognizant of the problem because it could indeed happen.
"You don't think about it, you won't prevent it, right?" he says.
With all this in mind, here's what Blair says you should do to keep your grill safely in check:
Use alternative cleaners. Blair suggests using a cloth, and he read that you can even clean the grill with an onion.
Know what you're buying. Just like when you're buying anything else, Blair says you should examine your grilling apparatus often and ensure it's in good servicing condition.
Don't forget about the other safety hazards. Make sure you're thoroughly cooking your meat. Blair says he likely sees people in his practice get sick by coming into contact with raw, contaminated food more so than foreign material ingestion. He also recommends people clean their instruments frequently when they're turning meat.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends separating food you plan on grilling (i.e. meat, poultry and seafood) from other foods when you're grocery shopping, chilling meat until you're ready to grill and, of course, inspecting the grill before you use it if you're using a wire bristle brush.
To combat the wire bristle issue specifically, that CDC report from 2012 recommends everyone from health care professionals to manufacturers of wire grill-cleaning brushes to retailers to the public be aware of the issue.
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