Call to Health Canada does little to clarify or substantiate agency’s position on The Warm Buddy Company product

Looking to see if I could gain a better handle on the reasons for The Warm Buddy recall by Health Canada, I assumed the mantle of everyday citizen and called into the Agency indicating that I was contemplating the use of a rice-based product (in this case a simple tube sock), and to inquire if it was safe.

The resulting series of calls first Federally and then Provincially are needless to say enlightening.

To begin, when I spoke with a representative of Health Canada I indicated that my wife was pregnant and experiencing back pain and that it was suggested that I fill a tube sock with white table rice, heat and then apply it to her back and I wanted to know if it was safe.

At first, the individual  indicated that it was not a subject upon which they could provide a comment or feedback relative to safety, and suggested that I contact my provincial agency.  He then transferred me to a Jennifer Payne who is with the Agency’s Bureau of Women’s Health and Gender Analysis, Regions and Programs Branch.  Ms. Payne was not in so I left a message.

When she did get back to me via voice mail, Ms. Payne indicated that they are not “licensed,” that’s right not licensed to give direct care advice.

Alright, maybe I am a little slow here but how can an agency which is purportedly attempting to exercise a massive recall of a product not be in a position (I do not even know what she meant when she said they weren’t licensed), to provide advice to the very public they are purportedly protecting by what is tantamount to closing down The Warm Buddy Company.

I of course tried to contact the Public Health Agency of Canada National Office and left a message, immediately following that call up with one to the Agency’s Quebec office (which is the province where I presently reside).

The Quebec Branch indicated right off the bat that this is not an area on which they could offer any direction.  A position that was confirmed when I eventually received a call back from a representative from the Agency’s National Office who informed me, and I quote:

“Unfortunately, I have to recommend that you talk to your doctor on that, as we are not medical professionals and so we are not able to give you any advice on whether or not that (a rice-based heating product) would be safe.”

Once again, and perhaps I am a little slow on the uptake here but, how can Health Canada not be licensed to provide information on the safety of a rice-based product and then, the Public Health Agency of Canada not provide any advice other than suggesting I speak to my doctor.

Like off-label drugs, if your doctor recommends the rice-based tube sock or a Warm Buddy does this imply that it is in fact a safe product?  Based on the agency to which the Quebec branch of the Public Health Agency referred me, CHHI Partners (The Canadian Health Heart Database Centre), the answer would appear to be yes!

According to the individual with whom I spoke at the CHHI, he indicated that the utilization of white table rice in heating pads such as tube socks et cetera is quite common and it is safe.  In fact, the individual even indicated that he uses a rice-based product called the magic pad and as found that it works quite well.  In short, there are no safety issues with a rice-based product as far as the agency to which I was ultimately referred is concerned.

The logical conclusion, and I am still open to any comments or feedback to the contrary, is that there is nothing that would warrant a recall, let alone a total recall spanning the past 13 years, of all Warm Buddy products.

What are your thoughts?

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One Response to “Call to Health Canada does little to clarify or substantiate agency’s position on The Warm Buddy Company product”
  1. Greg McKee says:

    An interesting research project, Jon. Getting passed on from one government dept to another certainly requires much patience and determination. One question becomes many more new questions.

    The owner of the Warm Buddy Company, is my sister, Karen. About 2 years ago, I gave my family doctor a rice-filled Warm Buddy Therapy pack, for his own use and perhaps for his practice. He eventually told me that he took it home for his family. Just a month or so ago, the doctor showed up at Karen’s office. He wanted several new Warm Buddies because it seems his young daughters, wife, and he were always fighting over the single heating pack, at home. Now everyone in this doctor’s family has their own Warm Buddy. So, if that isn’t a medical endorsement or approval, I don’t what is.

    Regarding other heating packs, like the Magic Bag, there are many types of fillers, instead of rice. Many are actual seeds and grains. There’s wheat, flax seed, cherry pits, oatmeal, corn, chick peas, millett, sand, rock salt, and various gel packets and beads, etc.

    I would like to know how many seconds in a mcrowave oven does it take to do 2 things : 1) Sterilize a seed so that it is no longer is a viable seed, capable of germinating? 2) Sanitary effect, meaning how many microbes, bugs, germs, vermin, etc are neutralized by microwave heating?

    I see your dilemma,….,it seems that Health Canada makes medical decisions for enforcement/recall purposes but it admits it’s not “licensed” to give medical advice, or, medical opinions to a consumer seeking knowledge for protection of self and family (ie pregnant wife).

    Best of luck in your Quest for Answers. And, thank -you !



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