Barbecue brushes could be in for an overhaul

Statistics show they cause just 0.0015 per cent of all emergency department admissions but, for safety reasons, wire-bristle barbecue brushes used on grills across the country could be in for an overhaul.

On Wednesday, commissioned by Health Canada, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) began the task of implementing a new minimum standard for the tools. The move follows cases that involved people accidentally ingesting dangerous bristles that had come loose from brushes, stuck to grills and ended up in food.

“Health Canada is aware of incidents of wire barbecue brush bristles coming loose and, in some cases, being ingested, causing serious health problems,” Health Canada spokesperson Sindy Souffront said by email.

Last year, Health Canada decided not to ban wire-bristle brushes, but identified 28 injuries they had reportedly caused since 2004. Health Canada reported at that point it had received nine reports of injuries since 2011, but the SCC now says there were nine incidents in 2017 alone.

With recalls ruled out and no fool-proof way to determine which brushes pose the most risk, Health Canada has instead asked the SCC to develop guidelines for new products.

In a request for proposals (RFP) filed Wednesday, bidders are invited to submit proposals to work on the development of a national standard. The Retail Council of Canada will also be involved.

The successful bidder would “provide guidance on the manufacture, sale and use of barbecue brushes, including metal bristle brushes; and define the characteristics of the tool, and include minimum specifications for materials, construction, labelling and testing procedures,” the RFP says, with the SCC adding that recent injuries have created “an outcry for action to protect the consumer.”

The deadline for submissions is May 15, and the SCC says it will expect the new guidelines a maximum of 18 months from the contract award date.

We do not have the mandate to create or enforce regulations

In the meantime, Health Canada wants people to regularly inspect brushes for signs of damage, and replace them regularly.

Only SCC-accredited standards development organizations can bid on the RFP, but the standard, when it arrives, is expected to be non-binding.

“In Canada, the use of standards is voluntary unless they are referenced in regulation,” SCC spokesperson Nadine James said by email. “Although SCC works with federal and provincial regulators, we do not have the mandate to create or enforce regulations.”

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