When 6-year-old Kohen Hargreaves swallowed a bite of Father’s Day ribs over the weekend, he started coughing. The Manitoba boy quickly became frantic, though no one could tell what had gone wrong. His gagging and crying became worse.

“He was kind of hysterical,” recalled dad Aaron Hargreaves. “He was pretty upset and he was saying there was something stuck in his throat.”

Kohen was rushed to hospital where doctors found a wire bristle from a barbecue brush lodged in his esophagus.

These small hidden fragments of brush have been known to come loose and cause injuries among dozens of barbecue users in recent years. There have been enough similar incidents that Health Canada began investigating the common tool last year. The agency says between 2004 and March 2018 it received 64 reports involving different brands, 47 of them leading to injury.

Kohen’s dad says the family is grateful that the bristle didn’t make its way further into the boy’s body.

"We were just so lucky it got caught in his throat and it didn't puncture anything in there,” he says. “If it would have made it into his stomach, the doctor said it could have been much worse.”

The family has since thrown away the wire brush.

Health Canada commissioned the Standards Council of Canada to develop safety guidelines for their use. Bids for the contract closed in May, and when an organization is awarded the contract to create a national standard, it could be released within 18 months. Such standards are voluntary as the Standards Council of Canada does not have a mandate to enforce regulations.

Though Health Canada last year decided not to ban the brushes outright, Kohen’s dad Aaron says they should at least come with a warning.

"It's not worth the risk,” he said. “You can buy a different barbecue brush for 10 or 15 dollars. Why take that chance?”

Experts recommend that barbecue users regularly inspect brushes for signs of damage, stop using a brush if its bristles come loose or stuck to the grill, inspect grills and food for loose bristles, and replace brushes to avoid problems.

With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Beth MacDonell