MONTREAL - Barbecue lovers can risk serious injury if the tiny, almost imperceptible metal bristles fall into their food, as local emergency room staffers have learned.

The wire bristles from brushes used to clean grills can fall off and be easily ingested.

The metal can cause choking or internal injury and even scratch of the digestive system and cause other problems.

“Any of these bristles entering into the body can cause a puncture or can also cause a perforation and potentially lead to a serious infection” said Dr. Rick Mah chief of St. Mary's Hospital emergency room.

Medical staffers are able to remove a bristle stuck in the throat with relative ease but anything deeper could require surgery.

One local barbecue expert recommends consumers buy brushes with wooden handles, as they are less likely to lose strength when exposed to heat.

The best way of avoiding accidents is to inspect the grills and brushes frequently for loose bristles and toss out any brush that looks like it has seen better days.

Grills should be cleaned before a meal, rather than after, in other words, allow the grill to cool and food matter to dry and harden. Then prior to a meal, reheat the grill and brush it off without allowing the brush to linger on the heat.

“The important thing in brushes is the sturdiness of the bristle,” said Eric Feigin, owner, of Joey BBQ Services. “Change it every season, without question. At three or four dollars for a brush it's not the end of the world.”