Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Grilling safety

The weather is finally warm…and many families are enjoying grilling out. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to share a few ways to stay healthy while firing up the grill.

Meghan Kulig: How common are grilling injuries?

Dr. Arnold: In 2011, about 17,000 patients were seen in emergency rooms because of injuries from grills. We not only see individuals who are doing the grilling get injured, but also others nearby, like children who may touch a grill after it is done being used, but still hot.

Meghan Kulig: Can you give us a couple quick tips to help reduce risk of injury?

Dr. Arnold: Check to make sure that your grill is in good working order before using it for the first time this season. Make sure that you aren't wearing anything that could easily catch fire, like baggy shirt sleeves or dangling apron strings. Wearing shoes is a good idea in case you drop anything hot on your feet or there are splatters from the food. Only grill in an outdoor, well-ventilated area. Keep grills away from nearby buildings to reduce fire risk.

Meghan Kulig: The topic of grilling brings up food safety issues too.

Dr. Arnold: Yes, you want to make sure that you are cooking the meat thoroughly. You can use a food thermometer to check that your food meets safe cooking temperatures. Ground beef should reach 160 degrees, poultry should be 165 degrees, fresh beef/pork/lamb/veal steaks, roasts, and chops should reach 145 and then allowed to rest for 3 minutes before carving. Also, make certain to get those leftovers into the refrigerator within 2 hours.

Meghan Kulig: What about charred meat and cancer risk?

Dr. Arnold: There is evidence that eating meat cooked at high temperatures or very well-done meat may increase cancer risk. You may want to consider a few quick tips to try to reduce your risk. You can choose lean cuts of meat and trim the fat well before cooking. This will result in less smoke production and therefore less of chemicals linked to cancer. Avoid eating parts of the meat that are especially charred or black. You can pre-cook the meat briefly in the microwave to reduce grill cooking time and release some of the juices. Consider grilling other items like vegetables or fruit to reduce the amount of meat you consume. Certain marinades may also reduce the risk of carcinogen formation, but be careful of marinades that contain a great deal of sugar, as these may increase risk of charring the meat.

Meghan Kulig: There were some cases nationally last year about grill brush bristles in food.

Dr. Arnold: Yes, there were some reported cases where people had pain after eating grilled food and were found to have accidentally swallowed metal fibers from a grill brush. The bristles had been dislodged from the brush while cleaning the grill and the patients accidentally ate them in their food. They had pain when the bristles became stuck in their digestive tract. It's one more thing to look out for when you are grilling at home.

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