Grilling evokes fond memories. Parents standing by the grill with a frosty beverage, children playing in the freshly-cut grass alongside them — all laughing and having a tasty afternoon.
But not all grilling experiences end with happy faces or tummies. In fact, some incidents result in visits to a hospital because of wire-bristle brushes.
Adults and children have been ingesting the thin bristles that break off from brushes when used to clean grills. The bristles are evidently embedding themselves into food and, in turn, people’s bellies. One study found U.S. emergency rooms reported more than 1,600 wire-bristle grill brush injuries between 2002 and 2014.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) morbidity and mortality report from 2012 highlights the issue, citing cases from March 2011 to June 2012. “The severity of injury ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract requiring emergent surgery,” according to the CDC.
The good news? There are ways you can prevent this from happening.
Wire-bristle brushes checklist
Dr. Mott Blair, a Wallace, North Carolina-based family physician, uses a brush himself when grilling, but has been more cautious as he’s read about these incidents. That makes even more sense when you think about what he has seen in his practice — like a piece of bone stuck in the back of someone’s throat. He says you must be cognizant of the problem because it could indeed happen.
“You don’t think about it, you won’t prevent it, right?” Blair says.
With all this in mind, here’s what he says you should do to keep your grill safely in check:
- Use alternative cleaners. Blair suggests using a cloth, and he read that you can even clean the grill with an onion.
- Know what you’re buying. Just like when you’re buying anything else, Blair says you should examine your grilling apparatus often and ensure it’s in good servicing condition.
- Don’t forget about the other safety hazards. Make sure you’re thoroughly cooking your meat. Blair says he sees many people visit his practice due to sickness from raw, contaminated food more so than foreign material ingestion. He also recommends people clean their grilling tools frequently when turning meat.
- The CDC also recommends separating food you plan on grilling — meat, poultry and seafood — from other foods when you’re grocery shopping, chilling meat until you’re ready to grill and, of course, inspecting the grill before you use it if you’re using a wire bristle brush.
Adapted from US News & World Report