New Brunswick

Saint John barbecuer who swallowed brush wire with burger warns others

A Saint John barbecuing enthusiast is hoping his story of swallowing a metal brush wire will provoke others to find another way to clean their grills.

Stephen Crabbe feels lucky the painful wire got stuck in his throat instead of travelling down digestive tract

Stephen Crabbe has such vivid memories of the wire that got stuck in his throat that he now uses half an onion to clean his grill, which he says works well. (Pat Richard/CBC)

A Saint John barbecuing enthusiast is hoping his story of swallowing a metal brush wire will provoke others to find another way to clean their grills.

"I thought a piece of thyme or rosemary was stuck in my throat," Stephen Crabbe said Monday. "It just got bad really quickly."

Health Canada has come out to say it will conduct a risk assessment to see if metal-bristle brushes should be pulled off store shelves.

The assessment follows nine reports Health Canada has received since 2011 about bristles coming loose and getting lodged in a person's digestive tract.

One woman from Alberta underwent two surgeries to her neck and throat. Despite spending a week in hospital and hours in the operating room, doctors could not find and remove the metal fragment.

Crabbe says that until the X-ray came back, a doctor didn't believe he could get a barbecue brush wire stuck in his throat. (Stephen Crabbe/submitted)

Crabbe said his eyes were opened as he read about some of the cases that led Health Canada to assess the barbecue brushes.

"I got lucky," he said of his own experience two years ago. "It got stuck in my throat.

"It didn't migrate into my digestive tract."

But with the wire stuck at the back of his throat below his tongue, the west side resident still spent 15 hours in pain.

This wire gave Stephen Crabbe of Saint John 15 hours of pain until it was removed by a doctor. (Stephen Crabbe/submitted)

When he went to the hospital, the doctor didn't believe what she was being told, Crabbe said. She told him she had never seen that type of blockage. 

"But she took an X-ray of my throat just in case," he said. "Sure enough, right away, you could see a metal piece just dangling."

He had to direct the doctor to where the wire was, and when it was removed, Crabbe felt immediate relief.

The experience definitely ruined his hamburger.

"I didn't have another bite."

Crabbe says the relief was immediate when a doctor removed the wire, but that happened 15 hours after the pain began. (Stephen Crabbe/submitted)

Several major retailers that sell the barbecue utensil  —  Rona, Home Depot and Home Hardware — told CBC News they would be closely watching for the Health Canada findings.

Crabbe said it seems silly the brushes, which have already injured some people, are still being sold.

He's considering reporting his case to Health Canada.

"All you have to do is a simple Google search," Crabbe said. "This isn't an isolated incident."

He hasn't used the metal-bristled brush again.

People who barbecue for a living say there are other reliable ways to clean a grill, including using a wooden scraper or even crumpled tinfoil. Crabbe has a suggestion too.

"I just cut an onion," he said. "Take a little bit of paper towel and run the onion top of the grill.

"It works perfect."

-with files from Vera-Lynn Kubine