updated 3/15/2005 9:31:22 AM ET 2005-03-15T14:31:22

As if the hair in your salad wasn't bad enough, a city health inspector in Cheyenne, Wyo. said there had been "several cases" of tongue rings and other facial jewelry found in the food in the city's restaurants.

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It was enough to persuade the Governor's Food Safety Council to recommend banning facial jewelry for restaurant workers who prepare food -- perhaps becoming the first state in the country to do so.

But despite his testimony, when contacted by The Associated Press, Jon Cecil of Cheyenne Health Department couldn't cite a single documented case of facial jewelry falling into a restaurant dish.

That's not what he said in a Jan. 25 hearing before the Food Safety Council.

"We've had several cases of old ladies finding tongue rings and rings and whatnot in their food," Cecil testified. "We actually had a lady at one of our finer restaurants in town and ... she found a tongue ring."

The council voted 5-3 to recommend the changes, which could go into effect as early as this spring.

Cecil said he learned of the incident from the restaurant, not from the customer, so no formal complaint was ever filed. He would not release the name of the restaurant.

In approving the regulation, the food safety council said nose, tongue and lip piercings were health hazards because a piercing that found its way into food could spread a staph infection.

John Townes, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Oregon Health Sciences University, said nose rings could transmit staph bacteria -- the inner nose is one of the most common sites for staph to colonize -- especially if the wearer had a habit of touching the nose ring with his hands.

But Townes said a nose ring would have to sit in a plate of food for hours before a sufficient population of bacteria built up to spread the disease. Townes said he knew of no documented cases of foodborne illness resulting from facial piercings.

"I think it would be vastly more important for them to wash their hands," he said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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