Grilling tip: Watch for wire brush bristles in your hot dog

With the Fourth of July come fireworks, crowds on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and our annual post about the dangers of ingesting wire bristles hot off the grill. Although we hate to cast a pall of threat over the holiday weekend, we figure its best to share information that can prevent trips to the emergency room.

The wire bristles on brushes used to clean grills can break loose, rest on the surface of the grill, cling to food as it’s being cooked, and subsequently be swallowed—causing lacerations, puncture wounds, risk of infection, and excruciating pain.

In July 2012 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a brief report about the risks and consequences of swallowing grill brush bristles; we dutifully summarized number of case reports from the medical literature. In July 2013, we took another look at research articles and news reports and found that the cases continued to amass.

A perusal of recent news stories indicates that the problem persists. Less than one month ago, a woman in Washington State underwent surgery for grill bristle ingestion, as did a woman in Texas. A teenager from Wilmington, Del. ingested a grill bristle in fall 2013, resulting in a punctured colon, emergency surgery, and weeks of recovery. A Seattle teen was hospitalized earlier in the year. An article published in February 2014 the journal Trauma reports a case from Hawaii.

The grill brush has not become subject to any new regulations as a result of these injuries. In May 2012, however, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) called on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to review the evidence about the household item and its harms.

It hasn't issued a report. But a few simple steps can protect your barbeque guests, your family, and yourself from harm:

-- Check the surfaces of grills for wire bristles before putting on the food.

-- Wipe the grill surface with a cloth after you brush it.

-- Purchase a new brush if yours is old and looks as if it’s losing its bristles.