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A Times Editorial

Melatonin-laced pastries pack a disputable punch

On its website, the company Lazy Cakes assures customers that its melatonin-laced desserts will "put a smile on your face." And the brownies of its rival Kush Cakes may very well be "baked with love," as the website Blazin Herbz would have consumers believe. But the pushers of these potent pastries aren't fooling anyone with their claims that the desserts are a dietary supplement for harmless relaxation. In stocking store shelves with a hash brownie mimic and passing it off as a supplement, these companies are avoiding a Food and Drug Administration regulation preventing melatonin's use as a food additive. The FDA should react as it did last year by regulating the melatonin beverage Drank and crack down once again.

Sold in stores and online against the backdrop of glass pipes and grinders, the pastries represent a comeback for melatonin, a favorite over-the-counter cure for jet lag in the 1990s. This time, it isn't just frequent fliers who are tasting the benefits. The company Lazy Cakes has flagrantly fashioned itself a member of the weed culture, making it clear through warnings that the brownies "may cause extreme relaxation or excessive use of the word 'dude.' "

As the New York Times recently reported, the products are becoming increasingly, if not distressingly, popular, with fans coming out on Facebook and Twitter to endorse them as an effective — and natural — munition against stress and sleep deprivation. But medical experts fear that the paring of melatonin with food could lead to impaired driving, respiratory issues or indiscriminate consumption. Meanwhile, the convenience store 7-Eleven has urged its stores not to carry what spokeswoman Margaret Chabris called a "questionable product."

For the FDA, this latest controversy has been oddly reminiscent of the one surrounding the caffeinated malt beverage Four Loko late last year. In that instance, Four Loko and other companies ceased production of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. "A dietary supplement would be a single swallow kind of thing, not a 20-ounce drink," said FDA spokesman Doug Karas.

As it reviews melatonin edibles, the FDA should keep the regulation last year of the melatonin-laced Drank beverage in mind. Just as a dietary supplement is not a 20-ounce drink, it certainly is not a brownie. And, in an era of more rampant over-the-counter drug abuse, the FDA should put a halt to the production of melatonin-laced brownies. Convenience stores and pharmacies should respond in kind and remove the brownies from their shelves.

Melatonin-laced pastries pack a disputable punch 05/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 5:13pm]
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