By Susan Barnett

NEW JERSEY (CBS) — A warning for anyone who loves to grill: 3 On Your Side has uncovered a hidden danger.  A North Jersey man ended up in the hospital this month from exactly this problem.  It’s not the meat or even the heat, but it could send you to the emergency room.

When you put meat on the grill you’re usually most concerned about cooking it all the way through to kill food-borne bacteria, but it wasn’t food poisoning that sent Matt McMahon to the emergency room.

“We were grilling out, cooking burgers, and obviously the last bite, something stuck in the throat,” McMahon said.

It was hours before they realized it was a 1.5-centimeter wire bristle from the wire brush his dad had used to clean the grill.

“I can only liken this to a needle in a haystack,” said Dr. Mark Bickert, who operated on McMahon. “The wire bristle [was] actually lodged inside of the muscle of the esophagus.”

It took four hours to remove the wire bristle from McMahon’s throat.

Something similar happened to firefighter Mike Matus when he took a bite of a burger.

“I felt it, but I didn’t know what it was,” Matus said.

Matus says it felt like a fish bone caught in his throat. The next day, he went to the hospital.

“It went through the esophagus and stuck in the wall of my heart,” Matus said.

It may happen more often than you think. In the last three years, nearly a dozen people have reported similar grill brush injuries to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Dr. Laurence Cramer, an ear nose and throat doctor affiliated with Bryn Mawr Hospital, said, “It can be serious because it can cause an abscess, cause an infection around it.”

Many grill brushes come with warnings to check for loose or detached bristles, but it may be in the fine print. So you’ll have to remember next time you fire up the barbecue to be on the lookout for the tiny hazards.

Both families in this story have stopped using grill brushes all together.  Now they use either a special stone or steel wool pads to clean their grills.