How Do You Like Your Burgers? Rare, Medium, Or Filled With Metal?

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Metal Bristle from wire brush in intestines

Metal Bristle from wire brush in intestines

Recent Blog Entries From Dr. Dave Hnida


Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorWith all of the fire restrictions and warnings, firing up the grill is probably down the list of things you’ll be doing frequently, if at all. But when you do, think about this word of warning from the CDC: eating wire bristles.

What? Never heard of it. But as a doctor, I need to keep this study in mind when someone comes in with a bellyache after a burger. And as a griller, I need to keep it in mind when I sizzle up a burger.

Here’s the deal: You know that gunk that builds up on the grill when you cook things on the grate? It’s gross (although it adds character and flavor), so you scrub it off with a wire brush.

Turns out little, itsy-bitsy pieces of metal can break off that brush and then embed themselves in the food that’s next up on the menu. And since they are so small, you can’t see them very well. But swallow them, and there’s a good chance your stomach or intestines will notice them. These little splinters can puncture your insides, causing pain and infection.

How common? No one is sure. But until this report, it’s something that wasn’t exactly on the radar of medical worries.

So what to do? Older brushes tend to rot, so replace every year or two. (I’ve had mine for four.) Then after putting in the elbow grease of scrubbing off the old crusted-on stuff, run a clean wet rag or paper towel across the grate. Just don’t set yourself on fire.

Now this may sound like it’s too stupid to worry about. And just as many of you like your burgers, yes, it’s rare.

But then again, I prefer catsup and mustard on my burgers, not metal shards. My intestines do, too.

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