The Real Reason A Grill Brush Could Land You In The Hospital

Whether you only fire up the grill in the summer months, or you barbecue year-round, millions take to their grills each year armed with the essentials: tongs, spatulas, and a wire grill brush. But before you fire up your grill for the next round of burgers, you may want to dump that wire grill brush in the trash. 

While the wire grill brush may be highly effective at scrapping off all those burnt burger bits, the tiny metal wires on the brush could also break off, stick to the grill, and then find their way into your food (via Consumer Reports). When that happens, and they're accidentally eaten, they can become lodged in a person's throat, or cause damage to their stomach and intestines. That's precisely the sort of grilling nightmare that ruins a person's summer and has them swearing off cookouts forever. 

According to a 2016 study in the journal for Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, some 1,700 people between 2002 and 2014 had to visit the emergency room because they accidentally ate metal bristles that were in their food, with one in four of those people being admitted to the hospital. In 2017, Jenna Kuchik told CBC News that she had to take her son to the emergency room after he had a stray wire stuck in his throat that was hidden in the family's grilled chicken. "What's been the most difficult is that we were aware of this happening to other people," Kuchik said. "We obviously didn't take it seriously enough." Surgeons removed the bristle, but had it made its way into the child's digestion system it could have torn his intestine and resulted in a nasty and potentially fatal bacterial infection. 

Nobody wants to cook on a dirty grill, so your best bet is to find an alternative tool to clean it with that won't have you grabbing your throat in excruciating pain. Consumer Reports recommends cleaning your grill with a bristle-free option, and prefer the Earthstone GrillStone, which is effective but does wear out rather quickly. Of course, there are incredibly cheap ways to safely clean a grill too: A wadded up ball of aluminum foil makes an effective grill-cleaning tool, and Southern Living suggests cleaning a hot grill by scraping it with a halved onion stuck to the end of your grilling fork. 

If you still insist on using your wire grill brush, just make sure you check it before each use to make sure the bristles aren't becoming too frayed, warped, or loose. If they are, then ditch it and clean your grill another way.