Grilling Brushes can Cause Life-Threatening Injuries

Barbeque brush bristles can cause serious injuries.

Did you know that the most common tool used to clean grills can also cause life-threatening injuries?

Experts warn that, if ingested, stray wire bristles from a grill cleaning brush can pierce a person’s throat or intestines, causing very serious injuries. Not many people are aware of this particular grilling danger, so you can help me spread the word.

If the griller uses an old, rusted wire brush to clean the grill, bristles can snap off while cleaning and end up in grilled meats. If the bristles are then ingested, they can tear up a person’s throat or digestive tract, sometimes requiring emergency surgery for removal.

This has happened to numerous victims who ended up having bristles surgically removed after they penetrated their intestines. Other victims of ingested wire bristles had to have them removed from their necks. Severe abdominal pain within 24 hours of eating grilled meat or neck pain upon swallowing were the symptoms of the injured patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control approximately 80,000 people wind up in the emergency each year after swallowing foreign objects, including wire bristles.

The cases can be hard to track, however, because a bristle (which is a very thin, minute piece of metal) can travel through a person’s body without them ever realizing it. The bristle just doesn’t get stuck on its journey.

Many doctors would most likely never suspect a wire barbecue brush bristle to be the cause of a patient’s severe abdominal pain, and often this will go undiagnosed.

Also, the bristles are so then, reports the CDC, they can be easily missed in a CT scan.

There are some things you can do to help ensure this doesn’t happen to you, your family or your friends when grilling. For starters, toss out the old brushes and instead use:

  • grill-cleaning stones or bricks
  • bristle-free brushes made of metal coil
  • grill brushes with nylon bristles

If you insist on using a wire brush with bristles, make sure it is in good condition. After cleaning the grill with it, wipe your grill with wet paper towels and inspect it thoroughly before cooking anything. If you find you are having abdominal pain within a day of eating grilled food, let your doctor know that you recently grilled out.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reviewing available grill-cleaning brush-related injury data to determine if a pattern of product defect could pose an unreasonable risk for injury or death. If so, a consumer warning , product recall or other regulatory action may occur.

Medical professionals or consumers should report these injuries to CPSC at

For more information on grilling safety, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Food Safety section.