(CBS) – When we barbeque, our biggest concern might be about bacteria causing a food-related illness. But it was something entirely different that sent Matt McMahon to the emergency room. “We were grilling out, cooking burgers, and obviously the last bite, something stuck in the throat,” he says.
It was hours before they realized it was a 1.5-centimeter wire bristle, from the wire brush his dad had used to clean the grill. The bristle had lodged inside of the muscle of the McMahon’s esophagus, says Dr. Mark Bickert, who operated on him over four hours.
“It’s probably more common than what we’re aware of,” he says. In the last three years, nearly a dozen people have reported similar problems to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Loose bristles can get attached to the grill grate and then later get stuck on your food.
A few weeks ago, Mike Destefan had a grilled steak for dinner and experienced some stomach pain. “Monday, I come to work and it’s really bad. I am almost doubled over in pain,” he recalls. Dr. Sanjeev Kaul ordered a CAT scan and found something in the lower intestine resembling a nail.
“He goes, ‘If you waited an hour or two you could be dead,’” Destefan says. Dr. Kaul operated and removed 1.5-inch-long piece of metal, but no one knew where it came from. Later, Destefan’s wife noticed that their grill brush was missing bristles.
Most metal grill brushes now come with warnings to check for loose or detached bristles. Dr. Kaul says take it seriously. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says there are no set industry standards for grill brushes. At this point, manufacturers are left to self-regulate. Stone grill cleaners are also available, and some people use crumpled up aluminum foil.