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Grill brush ingestion injuries on the rise

If you worry about bacteria in your food, you might be surprised to learn that an even more dangerous hazard is making an appearance in hot dogs and hamburgers right in your backyard.

As barbeque season heats up in Montana and elsewhere in the country, people throughout the nation are breaking out their grills to make delicious snacks for summertime parties. Consumers need to be aware, however, that new information indicates that certain types of grill brushes can leave behind metal bristles in your food, causing serious injury.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about the metal bristles, which often find their way into grilled food items and subsequently victims' stomachs. Six cases of grill brush injury occurred in one East Coast jurisdiction in the past year alone, ranging in severity from irritation while swallowing to gastrointestinal perforation that required emergency surgery.

The patients in that study were all between the ages of 31 and 64, and five of the subjects were men, according to reports. In all of the cases, the bristles were identified in the neck and digestive tract using X-rays and CT scans. CDC officials caution that the small bristles might not show up on all diagnostic images, so emergency physicians need to be aware that such injuries are increasingly common.

People who grill their food need to thoroughly inspect the surface before cooking. If you use a grill brush, wipe down the grill with a damp rag or paper towel to catch any errant bristles. Professionals do not recommend a specific type of grill brush over any others, but they urge caution throughout the summer months.

Although all patients who suffered from the bristle-related injuries recovered fully, danger still exists when any sharp object enters the delicate intestinal tract. One person required a highly invasive surgery to remove the bristle. Operations like that certainly carry risks of their own.

It is unclear whether the grill brush injuries are caused by poorly manufactured brushes or are simply unfortunate accidents.

Source: CBS News, "CDC warns of injuries from inadvertently swallowing grill-cleaning brush bristles," Ryan Jaslow, July 8, 2012

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