New Standard developed for microwavable heat packs

Wheat bags are a popular choice for warming bedding, keeping the body warm and for heat therapy of injuries, however they have been linked to fires in Australia – so they need to be used with care.

Wheat bags, also known as wheat packs, heat bags or microwavable personal warmers, are typically fabric bags filled with wheat or another grain which are intended to be heated in a microwave. Some are sold without any warnings or directions for use.

The bags can be dangerous if heated longer than recommended, placed under bed covers or wrapped in a towel, since wheat retains heat for a long time and may smoulder and spontaneously combust, setting fire to the bag and surroundings.

Following the death of an 80 year old Sydney woman and other injuries due to fires caused by the effects of heated wheat bags, Standards Australia agreed to develop a new standard  informing consumers of the related safety issues. The standard will cover heat packs, children’s products, wearable products, bags, pillows and products of the like which contain plant material such as wheat, rice, legumes, pulses, dried flowers or herbs and other grains. It will consider and address safety, performance, design, construction, testing, accessibility, flammability, labelling and warning. Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) has appointed a consumer representative to the Standards Australia Technical Committee CS-113 Microwavable Heat Packs which is developing the standard; it is intended to publish before the end of 2015.

The ACCC is warning Australians about the dangers of using wheat bags as a source of warmth and has released Wheat bags safety tips and Wheat bags – safety alert.  Also, CHOICE put wheat bags to a quick test and have recommend how to use a Wheat bag safely.

The CFA provides volunteer representatives on Standards Australia Technical Committees as part of the CFA Standards Project; if you are interested in finding out more about the Project and/or becoming a volunteer CFA Standards Representative please contact the Standards Coordinator