Two recent incidents in which metal bristles from a grill-cleaning brush were accidentally ingested are drawing attention to an unexpected grilling hazard. Men in New Jersey and Washington state were taken to local hospitals with stomach pain after barbecuing. In both cases, they had swallowed a bristle that had become attached to the food after the grill was cleaned. Both men underwent emergency surgery when the bristles perforated their intestines.
The news reports didn't mention the types of grills involved, but brushes with metal bristles aren't appropriate for all grills. Before buying a brush, check your owner's manual to see which type of brush to use. Nylon-bristle brushes are best for porcelain-coated cast-iron grates (metal bristles can damage them) and a steel (not brass) brush is preferred for uncoated cast-iron grates. To avoid leaving bits behind, inspect your grill brush; if bristles are loose or have already broken off, get a new one.
More grill-safety tips
More typical grilling hazards include gas leaks, plugged tubes, or too much grease in the grease trap, which all pose the risk of fire. To grill safely follow this maintenance routine:
- Inspect hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks and replace any broken parts.
- Check for gas leaks by mixing a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution over connections and along hoses. Turn on the gas but don't light the burners. If the soap solution bubbles you need to change a part or fix a loose connection.
- Clear the gas-supply tubes of spider nests and other debris.
- Regularly clean your grill, especially the grease trap.
For additional safety tips, read Five ways to botch your backyard barbecue.
And if you're in the market for a new outdoor cooker, see our buying guide and Ratings of gas grills. After you've got your grill up and running, register it with the manufacturer. More than one million grills have been recalled over the past five years, and registering yours will help the manufacturer keep you informed of a recall or other problem.
NJ man recovers after eating grill brush bristle [The Trentonian]
Grill brush bristle found in man's small intestine [KTVU.com]