Are barbecue grills fueled by newsprint dangerous?

Dear Cecil:

You're probably familiar with those grills for backyard barbecuing that run on crumpled newsprint, and can probably know whether the lead in printer's ink gets in the food being cooked, right?

Cecil replies:

Dear N.:

Right. The Food and Drug Administration, which approved the grills after a series of tests at the Hazelton Laboratories in Virginia in the 60s, claims that no toxic substances, lead or otherwise, are transferred from the newspaper to the meat. The only problem they found was with one of the chemical additives in green ink which creeps into the meat and makes it taste mighty funny, but stops short of making you sick (if that’s any comfort). Actually, the real genius of the newspaper grill is that the newsprint itself isn’t the main fuel source. Following the ancient design of the Zulus, the grills capture the fat dripping from the meat, which burns as it runs over the paper.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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