5 On Your Side

Beware the grill brush: Loose bristles can lodge in food

Posted August 6, 2014

When was the last time you took a close look at your grill-cleaning brush?

You may find a problem that 5 On Your Side has warned you about before, but it continues to happen – the bristles come loose and get into your food.

It happened to a Raleigh man who hopes his story will make you check your brush.

Rodney Wright had just about finished his meal when a bristle lodged in his tongue.

“It was just like a sharp pin pushing into the side of your neck,” he said. “It just wedged. I knew something was wrong.”

An X-ray of his tongue showed the definitive line of the bristle.

“It doesn't look that big,” Wright said. “But I'll tell you what, when it's in your throat, yeah, it feels like a truck."

Every time he swallowed, he felt the "pin."

“Do you know how many times you swallow during the course of a day?” he said. “It was not a fun experience."

By the time Wright got to a hospital, part of the bristle broke off. The other part, which he no longer feels, is still there.

"The downside of that, it's stainless steel, so it's not going to rust away,” he said.

His is one of many similar cases across the country that have been documented online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a Washington woman who almost died in June after a wire punctured her intestine.

The CDC has issued a warning for ER doctors to be on the lookout.

Check your brush regularly and toss it if there are any damaged or loose bristles. Don’t use grill brushes until they fall apart.

Also wipe down your grilling surface before cooking on it.

Wright's brush was worn, and the bristles were loose.

“I just kind of hope this serves as a warning to folks,” he said. “If you do anything, look at the brush. If it looks anything like that, put it in the big round can (and) be done with it."

If you are a guest at a barbecue, politely warn the host and chef of the potential dangers.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • WageSlave Aug 11, 2014

    Never used a brush. I always heat it up, wad up piece of tin foil and go at it.

  • busyb97 Aug 8, 2014

    View quoted thread

    He was lucky. I have read of cases where it ended up in the gut and punctured the intestinal wall. In one case, the guy died.

    I try to find the scrubbers that dont have the wire bristles, but it is darn near impossible!! Or you can only get them with the short handle.

    By the way, burning things off has nothing to do with getting the wire bristles off of your grill grates.

  • snowl Aug 7, 2014

    I only use those flat black heavy duty scrubbing pads with the attached handle. They work great and they only cost about $3.00 each.

  • qrbyrd Aug 7, 2014

    Happen to my spouses co-worker a few weeks ago. He went to the nurses station and got a pair of tweezers and removed it himself.

  • Ben Sanders Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    "If you are a guest at a barbecue, politely warn the host and chef of the potential dangers."

    1) Why is this only applicable to someone cooking pork?

    2) This sounds like a really good way to get in a fight.

  • Mark Farmer Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    seen that problem back 40+ years ago, I figured it was a bit of common sense.

  • 45ACP Aug 7, 2014

    “Do you know how many times you swallow during the course of a day?”
    Read more at http://www.wral.com/beware-the-grill-brush-loose-bristles-can-lodge-in-food/13872484/#oYfeHDF2wy9QSlXE.99



  • Thomas Fenske Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Yeah, you brush it, then burn it, then wipe it down, then, carefully, re-grease it then cook.
    I've seen the bristles come off ... you immediately chunk the brush. Burning and wiping will do for that session if you are in a hurry.

  • iopsyc Aug 7, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You should go back and re-read justcommonsense's comment because they clearly include a brush in their cleaning process.

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Aug 6, 2014

    View quoted thread


    A wipe down doesn't get everything. Neither does a flame on.

    That's the reason for the brush and this story which I'm grateful for because I hadn't thought of this.

    Shared with others too, cause maybe they haven't either.