Chow Line: Barbecue safely this Fourth of July

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I’m ready to use my grill for the first time this summer for a July Fourth cookout. Is it OK to use a steel wire grill brush to clean the grease and grime that’s built up since the last time I used it?  

Your question is similar to another that was asked in a “Chow Line” column from July 2018, so it’s best answered by reissuing that column here.

When using a wire grill brush, it’s important to take note of how old your grill brush is and what condition it’s in. If your grill brush is worn down, warped, or has some missing bristles, you might want to consider throwing it out.

This is because you’ll want to be careful that you don’t inadvertently leave behind any wire bristles from the grill-cleaning brush that could end up in the meat or vegetables that you are grilling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been several reported cases of internal injuries following unintentional ingestions of wire grill-cleaning brush bristles by both children and adults. The severities of the injuries have ranged from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain upon swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, requiring emergency surgery, the CDC said.

In fact, an estimated 1,698 consumers visited emergency rooms between 2002 and 2014 after having ingested wire bristles in grilled foods, according to a 2016 study in the journal Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

The study authors said that while wire-bristle grill brush injuries aren’t common, they do tend to increase during the grilling season, which makes sense, of course. The months with the highest number of reported injuries are June, July, and August, they said.

More detailed information on wire grill brush injuries can be found at, which allows consumers to list information on what their injuries were and how they occurred. 

Consumer Reportsoffered these tips to help consumers avoid accidental ingestion of wire bristles when barbecuing:

  • Use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking.
  • If you use a wire-bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking for the presence of bristles that might have dislodged from the grill brush and could embed in cooked food.
  • Depending on the type of grill you have, you might be able to clean it using a pumice stone or a coil-shaped, bristle-free bush.
  • You might try using crumpled-up aluminum foil to brush loose food particles off a warm, but not hot, grill rack or grate.

Another important grilling safety tip to remember is to always use a food thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooked to the correct internal temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella that might be present, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For meats such as steak and pork, that temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For ground meats—including beef, pork, veal, and lamb—the correct temperature is 160 degrees, the USDA says. And poultry such as chicken and turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor:This column was reviewed by Candace J. Heer, educator, family and consumer sciences, OSU Extension.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Candace J. Heer
OSU Extension