A Toronto-area mother is demanding that wire-bristle barbecue brushes be banned, after a bite of a burger landed her six-year-old son in hospital with a tiny wire from their barbecue brush lodged inside him.
It was just another summer night for the Fiore family, who decided to have burgers on the grill for supper. But what happened to the little boy next was anything but normal.
Anthony Fiore took the first bite of his burger and immediately had a bizarre reaction.
"It felt like a needle," Fiore said.
The six-year-old's parents came forward about their ordeal to CBC News after Canadian surgeons urged people on Wednesday to throw out their wire-bristled brushes because the bristles can become stuck to barbecue grills and cling to food without being noticed.
Doctors haven't found a surefire way of removing the thin, sharp wires from people's throats when they're swallowed.
"We knew something was wrong, and he was in extreme pain, because he was crying," Anthony's mother, Nadia, said.
"From the time we had dinner to the time we had surgery, it was about 12 hours later, because our journey started at the local hospital, and then we were transported to Sick Kids," she said.
Surgeons at SickKids were able to remove the bristle, but Fiore wasn't out of the woods yet. Doctors said he'd likely develop a throat infection because of bacteria on the bristle — and he did.
Stories old as BBQ brushes themselves
Surgeons have been dealing with an influx of patients needing emergency surgery to remove bristles lodged in throats and haven't quite figured out a "surefire" way of removing them, a Nova Scotia otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) told CBC News on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, CBC News reported on a Halifax woman who had a bristle lodged so far down her throat that surgeons couldn't reach it. It's still there.
An initial X-ray of Anthony showed a tiny bristle from the brush lodged inside his throat. Doctors told his mother they had seen this phenomenon before and urged her to ditch the brush.
"These stories have been happening as long as the brushes have been around," said Duff Dixon, vice-president of development at Barbecue World, a retail chain that sells barbecues and their accessories.
Dixon recommends replacing brushes whenever they appear matted. He also recommends using a brush with wires that are fastened around a metal backing, rather than wooden or plastic brushes with bristles that might not be as secure.
Lighting the barbecue for a few minutes with the lid closed can also help loosen up anything caked on the grill and make it easier to wipe off with a piece of scrunched foil.
Nadia Fiore says she came forward with her story to make sure others know the danger of brushes.
"I hope to have these brushes removed from the shelves, have them banned."
Nadia Fiore and her family haven't had barbecued food since the bristle incident in June. She says it traumatized Anthony, and he's now nervous to eat anything from the grill.