I have insomnia. (Thus explaining the time this is being posted.) It comes and goes, as insomnia is wont to do, and I’ve apparently been in an upswing period of late. A friend of mine on the other coast, who blogs over at Geek Girls Rule, is also plagued by insomnia, and sometimes I think we trade off on who has to be awake in some sort of cosmic balance. We’re defenders of the night, each taking shifts to maintain vigil over the sleeping world, in case… well, I’m not sure in case of what, being that about the only weapons Mickey and I have are awesome racks and rapier wits, neither of which are likely to save the world from imminent destruction. But, I digress, which is common when I’m tired.
If certain dessert-makers have their way, Mickey and I, along with the rest of the Sleep is for the Weak Not Cranky club really will be able to have our sleep and eat it, too. It seems that the latest fad is melatonin baked into pastries, sort of a pot brownies for the convenience store crowd.
In an article of concepts that jumped out and did a samba for attention, the Len Goodman-pleasing number was the idea that the makers of these baked goods label them as “not for food use.” This appears to be the way that Lazy Cakes, Kush Cakes, and Lulla Pies (all rotten tomato worthy puns) get around FDA labeling laws. You see, while using melatonin as an additive in food would be regulated under federal law (and likely not allowed), dietary supplements don’t need what’s known as FDA premarket approval, and (more importantly) are not required to be proven safe or effective.
So regardless of the fact that we’re talking a sugary Ho-Ho hopped up on a neurohormone, it’s perfectly fine so long as it’s a diet modifier, and not so fine if it’s just part of the diet.
It’s this kind of splitting of hairs that drives people batty – and leads to the odd regulatory issue where it’s better (at least cheaper) for a company to attempt the “dietary supplement” route and change if forced to, than to start out following the rules in the first place. It is, in other words, a bandwagon-seeking food manufacturer’s version of the choice to ask permission or to say sorry.
Much like the toddler who has figured out that if you say you’re sorry rather than ask permission, you at least get to do what you want, these companies know that it is both cheaper and more profitable to sell your food as a dietary supplement and hope to fly under the radar than it is to play by the rules in the first place.
It’s a broken system, and one that can cause harm to the people who don’t realize how unsafe what they’re taking could be – the lack of regulation in the dietary and herbal supplements market is extremely concerning. The solution here is simple: make it much, much more costly to ask forgiveness after action, and reward those who ask for permission first.