We journalists just can’t let the Fourth of July pass without warning you about the hidden hazards of the holiday. Blowing off a finger or sucking down air pollution from fireworks! Car crashes on busy roads! Bacteria lurking in your hamburger!
Here’s another one to add to the list: Wire grill brushes.
The bristles can break off and find their way into food. A Presque Isle woman knows this all too well, after doctors surgically removed a fragment of one from her esophagus in the summer of 2012. In a February lawsuit she filed against the Ohio manufacturer, Deborah Lamont claimed that during the second summer of using the grill brush, a corroded bristle dislodged from it, attaching to a mushroom burger she cooked and ate.
A New Jersey man suffered a similar fate. Michael DeStefan underwent emergency surgery in May 2012 after doctors discovered a 1.5-inch-long metal brush bristle had pierced his large intestine. He told a local TV news station that he hoped his, ahem, “brush with death” served as a warning to others.
The wire brushes, used to clean grill grates, pose enough risk that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert about them in 2012. The agency documented six cases in which people needed emergency treatment after ingesting wire bristles embedded in food cooked on outdoor grills. The bristles lodged in the throat or tongues of three people and in the stomach lining of two others. In the sixth case, the bristle got stuck in the person’s colon. Ouch.
The CDC recommends using a moist cloth or paper towel to clean grill surfaces before cooking. Or you could try grill-cleaning stones or bricks, or brushes made with metal coil or nylon bristles.
If you’re using a brush with metal bristles, give the grill a thorough inspection before searing up those beef patties.