The federal government has taken the first steps toward developing national standards around the manufacture, sale and use of barbecue brushes after at least nine people ingested detached metal bristles last year.
A request for proposals from the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) went out Wednesday morning, seeking an outside contractor to help with the development of a National Standard of Canada for the brushes, which would define the characteristics of the barbecue tools, and include minimum specifications for materials, construction,
labelling and testing procedures.
“In 2017, at least nine incidents of Canadians ingesting wire bristles from barbecue brushes were reported, creating an outcry for action to protect the consumer,” the documents note.
One boy from Whitecourt, Alta., was rushed to hospital last July after a 1.5-centimetre metal bristle got lodged in his throat. He underwent an operation to remove it.
WATCH: Alberta mom warns of barbecue brush hazard after son is sent to hospital
Members of the Retail Council of Canada have been asking for “standardization guidance” since last year, the documents also note, and Health Canada supports the move. Both plan to be participants in the standard’s development.
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Wednesday’s news represents something of a turnabout for Health Canada. Last December, a risk-assessment report from the department concluded that while metal BBQ brushes are unregulated products, Health Canada would not be recommending an outright ban on them.
The department also discounted other risk-management options like voluntary recalls and regulatory changes, concluding they were “not practical.”
Once approved by the Standards Council of Canada (a Crown corporation), the new standard can be adopted by the manufacturers of barbecue brushes sold in Canada.
They will then be subject to what’s known as “conformity assessments,” which can be conducted by suppliers, purchasers or — preferably — by a third party that has been accredited by the Standards Council.
The request for proposals that went out Wednesday reiterates that metal bristle detachment “is not specific to a particular brand or make of barbecue brushes, and there currently is no well-defined criteria that can be used to determine which products pose the greatest risk.”
It’s unclear exactly when a new National Standard of Canada linked to barbecue brushes might be in place.
Proposals to assist in its development must be received no later than May 15, 2018, and the contract will be awarded at some point after that. The standard will then “be published within 12 months, with a maximum of 18 months,” the documents state.
Consumers are still being advised to check their BBQ brushes for signs of wear and tear and to throw out any brush that shows signs of bristles detaching.
- Inspect your grill brush for wear. If the bristles are worn down or clogged up with grease, throw it away and replace it.
- If your grill brush head is split or warped, the bristles can come loose. Throw it away and replace it.
- If your grill brush looks OK, you should perform a simple safety check: Take a pair of pliers and grab a bristle and pull using moderate pressure. If the bristle pulls loose, replace your brush.
- Choose a brush with a long handle to keep hands and arms away from the grill.
- A good quality brush has stainless-steel brushes that feel strongly anchored in the grill head or handle.