It’s finally warm enough to declare that it is BBQ season in Canada.  However, the government is warning us about the serious health concerns associated with the use of metal brushes to clean your grill. 

The exact number of injuries caused by metal bristles becoming loose, stuck to food, swallowed and posing a serious health problem to Canadians is unknown.  At one point Health Canada reported that 28 injuries had been identified since 2004, but the Standards Council of Canada has reported that there were nine incidents in 2007 alone.

A study published by the University of Missouri estimated that over a 12-year period nearly 1,700 individuals attended hospital emergency departments with injuries resulting from a wire bristle that came loose from a grill brush.  It is estimated that the number of incidents of this nature may be even higher, as only patients who attended an emergency department were included in the study, not those who sought medical assistance elsewhere.


Health Canada is alerting Canadians that metal bristle brushes used to clean barbecue grills can lose their bristles and accidentally become ingested, leading to serious health complications. 

Health Canada has provided the following recommendations to all Canadians:

  • Regularly inspect your barbecue brushes for signs of damage;
  • Inspect your barbecue grill and food to ensure that there are no loose bristles;
  • Regularly replace brushes;
  • Refrain from using your barbecue brush if you find any bristles that have become loose or stick to the grill.

Health Canada has asked the Standards Council of Canada to develop a voluntary safety standard for BBQ brushes.  This standard will generate ways to reduce the risk of loose bristles and define safety criteria for brushes, including labeling and testing. 

Given that the numbers of reported injuries appear to be low in Canada, Health Canada is requesting that anyone harmed by a loose wire bristle should report the incident to the manufacturer or store where the product was purchased and should fill out an incident report form found on Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety website.


Dr. Leigh Bishop, a surgeon in Guelph, Ontario, has witnessed metal bristles from barbecue brushes causing perforations in the stomach, the small intestine and an esophagus.  He stated:

A lot of people don’t recognize that they may have ingested a bristle at all, it may be something completely symptomless until it perforates later in their digestive tract. … Somebody could die needlessly.  These are products that don’t really need to be on the market and there are safer alternatives.

In 2014, Kim Schellenberg of Red Deer, Alberta, was injured when she swallowed a wire bristle after consuming a hamburger.  She underwent two surgeries to her neck and throat area and was hospitalized, yet doctors could not find or remove the metal fragment.  Doctors eventually concluded that the fragment must have made its way down her digestive tract and was eventually expelled in body waste. 

Dr. Jodi Jones, a Winnipeg pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist), warns about the dangers of ingesting the loose wires as they can become lodged inside one’s body and are hard to see by the naked eye or with a flexible scope.  She is especially concerned for children as they may be unable to explain where the pain is coming from or articulate the problem. 


BBQ season may be one of the surest signs that spring has arrived and its time to start grilling those hotdogs and hamburgers.  We, at Cuming & Gillespie LLP, encourage everyone to practice the following simple barbecuing safety tips to stay safe this BBQ season.

1. Clean and Inspect Your Grill

Always clean your BBQ before using it for the first time each season.  Be sure to disconnect the gas before starting to clean your BBQ.  After cleaning each part of your BBQ, inspect the parts and replace any that appear to be damaged or worn out. 

2. Check for Leaks

Before turning on the gas, check your barbecue for any leaks by using a commercial leak detector solution or even a home-made solution (50% water and 50% liquid soap).  Brush the solution on all of the valves and connections and if you see any bubbles, you know that you have a leak.  Do not use a lighter or match to check for leaks.

3. Keep Your Grill a Distance from Your Home

Ensure that your grill is located at least 3 metres away from any doors, windows, heat sources or obstructions.  Also, be sure that there are no overhanging tree branches, umbrellas or hanging baskets above your grill.  Always barbecue outside in a well-ventilated area.

4. Be Cautious with Fire

Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand and be sure to know how to use it and how to extinguish a fire and cut your barbecue’s fuel supply quickly. 

5. Prioritize Food Safety

Food poisoning affects millions of Canadians each year.  Be sure to keep raw meat away from fruits and vegetables to avoid cross-contamination.  Also, it is important to be vigilant about washing your hands when handling raw meat or preparing food of any kind.  Always cook meat thoroughly and use a food thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooked properly.

6. Shut Down Properly

Start by shutting off your service valve to allow for any remaining gas in the hose lines to burn off.  Then turn off your burner control valves and allow your grill time to cool off before covering it.

Cuming & Gillespie LLP wishes everyone a wonderful and safe BBQ season.  If you or a loved one have experienced a serious injury or loss and would like information about your legal options, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP.  Please contact our office for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555.  We are dedicated to providing you with the legal help you deserve.