Grill brush bristles have become a problem
The Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has reported a very unusual series of injuries. Public awareness is the key to prevention.
At a Rhode Island hospital during a 12-month period, six cases of ingested wire grill-cleaning brush bristles were treated in the emergency department. All of the cases caused discomfort and some of the patients required surgery to remove the pieces of wire and repair damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
If six cases occurred in a small hospital within a year, the experts are wondering how many cases go unreported. Prior to this time period only two other cases of swallowed metal bristles from grill brushes were reported at that hospital. These reports suggest that such incidents might be more common than previously suspected.
Wire cleaning brushes are sold and used to scrub grill grates clean of previous burnt on debris. The wire bristles found in the esophagus and intestines of patients had to be imbedded in a meat that was cooked on a home grill. The bristles stuck to the meat while cooking on grill grates that were scrubbed clean with the wire brush.
Restaurants and commercial kitchens were not identified in any of the cases. Backyard cooking was the cause for the swallowing of the pieces of wire.
While I admire those who scrape previously cooked on meat off the grill with a wire brush because leftover meat and juices could breed foodborne illness; this new hazard has me concerned.
New studies are being conducted to look at why this would even occur. What was the chewing ability of the diner or why didn’t the person feel the piece of wire before it was swallowed? Were the grill grates uncoated cast iron or porcelain coated? Were the pieces of meat whole or ground? Was the same brand of wire brush used? Perhaps the wire bristles were not securely imbedded in the brush handle and this caused them to fall out easily.
Until new information can be obtained, new precautions should be considered. If a brush with wire bristles is used on a grill used for home cooking, inspect the brush for loose bristles. After scrubbing with the brush, wipe both sides of the grate with a damp towel.
Instead of a wire brush consider alternative grill-cleaning methods or products. Rinse the grates off after cleaning and before reuse. Careful inspection of any grill surface before use is important to avoid this problem.
Charbroiling foods have been linked with an increase risk of cancer with those people who primarily eat foods cooked on a grill. Remember put your grill in a well ventilated area to reduce the risk of fires or respiratory problems.
Foodborne illnesses from improper cooking temperatures when grilling have caused people to get ill. Using a meat thermometer is the best way to cook foods to safe temperatures.
I never thought that I would write about this topic. An occasional picnic feast now has a new danger: grill bristles.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330–684-4776.