BURBANK (CBS) — The Ahern family love breaking out their barbeque for grilling season.
“I love barbecuing because it’s at my own pace. There’s something better about food you make. It just tastes better,” Jeff Ahern said.
The Burbank-based family is aware of barbecue dangers, such as bacteria and other food-related illnesses — but the grill brush?
It was a hard metal grill brush that sent a man in Carrollton, Texas, to the emergency room.
“We were grilling out, cooking burgers, and, obviously, during the last bite, I got something stuck in my throat,” Matt McMahon said.
It was hours before they realized that the item lodged in his throat was a 1.5-centimeter wire bristle from a brush his father used to clean the grill.
“You can see it’s just one of those plastic ones you can buy at any local store. And here’s a close-up. You can see bristles coming all out. That’s what was in my throat,” McMahon said.
Dr. Mark Bickert, who practices at Baylor Medical Center in Texas, operated on McMahon.
“I can only liken this to a needle in a haystack,” the doctor said.
The ear, nose and throat surgeon found the bristle lodged inside of the muscle of the esophagus. It took Dr. Bickert four hours to remove the wire bristle from McMahon’s throat.
“We yelled out to the rest of the operating room staff, ‘We have it, we have it!'” McMahon said.
During the last three years nearly a dozen people across the country reported similar accidents to the consumer product safety commision.
“It’s probably more common than what we’re aware of,” McMahon said.
Arthur Migranyan, who works at Burbank Fireplace and Barbeque, has never heard of anyone swallowing a grill brush bristle. He showed CBS2 the brushes he sells, many of which have warning labels on them, which read: “Examine brush prior to each use. If brushes are not securly affixed to the brush, do not use and discard immediately. Ensure cooking grids are free of any loose bristle prior to cooking.”
It’s a warning Jeff Ahern said he will remember each time he grills.
The last thing I want is to get these bristles in my throat or esophogus, or just in my food, or, even worse, my son’s or my wife’s. Yeah, so I’m going to keep my eye out for that,” Ahern said.
The consumer product safety commision says there are no set standards for grill brushes.
Doctors advise that if the bristles on your brush are loose or old consider buying a new one, or switch to a special stone that cleans grills.