I usually consider myself to be on top of things when it comes to food safety. Some call me paranoid, though I prefer quirky. But in spite of my manic quirkiness, the latest warning about those wire barbecue brushes we all clean our grills with totally threw me for a loop.
This warning comes from a group of surgeons, by the way, so you know it’s got to be serious. Apparently the super-tiny metal fibers in the brush head can come loose over time and get lodged in your throat and epiglottis. Why is it scary? Y’know, other than the fact that getting metal jammed into your body sounds generally painful and terrifying? They literally can’t figure out a good way to remove the metal wires once they’re stuck in the soft tissue of your mouth, throat, stomach or wherever these suckers decide to make themselves known.
In a truly unsettling statement, otolaryngologist Dr. Ian Dempsey said, “It’s a needle in a haystack, but the haystack is your tongue.” Um, whatever you say, Doc! Another gem? According to CBC News, the good doctor also “likened the surgery to removing an acupuncture needle from a grapefruit without damaging any part of the fruit.” I think from now on, instead of saying “needle in a haystack,” I’m definitely going to go with “acupuncture needle in a grapefruit.” (Does Dr. Dempsey also have a creative writing degree?)
Wires can come loose from old or new, cheap or expensive wire grill brushes. Then, food on the grill picks up the shed wires, where they can then find their way into your mouth. Sometimes you may not even realize you’ve swallowed a wire and won’t start feeling pain until months later, when they’re good and truly embedded into your soft tissues.
In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Instead of using a grill brush, you can use a balled-up piece of aluminum foil gripped between your metal grill tongs to scrape your grill grate. That should be strong enough to scrape off any residue on your grill before you start cooking. You can also do the same thing after you’re done grilling — that way, hot food won’t have time to solidify into a stubborn mess that leaves you saying “whatever” the next time you go to grill and roll the dice by using your old wire brush.
Long story short? Wire brushes suck, can cause extreme pain that results in surgery that’s basically a gamble, and you should throw out your wire grill brush ASAP.
Am I the only one with a phantom tickle in my throat after learning about this?
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