In each case, the patients had eaten food grilled on a barbecue that had been cleaned just before cooking. It seems that the bristles fell off the brushes, landed on the grill and ended up in the food. "All of the patients in our [group] ate meat -- either beef or chicken," Grand said. "It is unclear if they simply were not grilling their vegetables, weren't eating vegetables or if the bristles don't stick as easily to vegetables placed on the grill."
Emergency physicians said they're familiar with a variety of ingested foreign objects in patients, but not this particular one. Toothpicks may be the closest thing, said Dr. Michael Lanigan, an attending physician in emergency medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City. Sharp objects, he said, can cause perforations anywhere in the digestive tract.
What should you do to prevent bristles from getting into your food when you grill?
"When my pop had a charcoal grill, he'd do a good rinse to get off the residue," Lanigan said. You can rinse the cooking grates in the sink or with a hose "and make sure you didn't leave anything on there," he said.
Grand, the report author, has his own cleaning method. "Anecdotally, although I have no scientific proof that this works, I now wipe my grill with a wet paper towel after using a brush, hoping to remove any dislodged bristles," said Grand.
The report appears online and in the April print issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.
For more about grill safety, see the U.S. National Fire Protection Association.
SOURCES: David Grand, M.D., radiologist, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence; Michael Lanigan, M.D., attending physician in emergency medicine, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, New York
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