Massachusetts Mayors Want to Ban Melatonin-Laced Brownies
Massachusetts politicians want to ban "relaxation" brownies that contain melatonin, a sleep-inducing supplement. Two mayors have drafted an ordinance to ban Lazy Cakes' chocolate treats, which feature cartoon-character packaging that critics say could be appealing to children. They've been available for more than six months and are available in more than two dozen states, where they're sold at places like convenience stores and gas stations. "If someone wants to buy melatonin, that's fine, but it shouldn't be in a brownie that's packaged to attract kids," Fall River Mayor William Flanagan said at a press conference on Thursday. Each treat contains 8 milligrams of melatonin, which is not approved by the federal government as a food additive. In Europe, adults are commonly prescribed .03 milligrams as a sleep aid. "If you take it while you're driving a car, you will find yourself in a ditch," David Seres, director of medical nutrition at Columbia Medical Center, told The New York Times. Lazy Cakes, meanwhile, insists the brownies are not targeted to children and are labeled for adult use only. "We created Lazy Cakes to provide adults with a great-tasting way to combat the stress associated with our fast-paced lives," the company said in a statement. "We encourage parents to check the label before providing this or any product to their children."
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Parents, Don't Be Conned by Sugary Kids' Cereals
Kids will actually eat breakfast cereal that isn't super sugary—and they'll like it, too. That's heartening news for parents who feel like they've been conned by the food industry into serving breakfast with almost no nutritional value, in the belief that their kids would otherwise skip the most important meal of the day. Take that, Froot Loops!
Many of the breakfast cereals aggressively marketed to children contain huge amounts of sugar: Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes, three of the cereals used in a recent study, have 11 or 12 grams of sugar per serving. For Froot Loops, 42 percent of a serving's 118 calories come from sugar. Other cereals fare even worse; a study of sugary cereals done in 2008 by Consumer Reports found that a bowl of some varieties, like Kellogg's Honey Smacks, had as much sugar as a glazed donut—hardly a healthy start to the day.
But parents all too often listen to the marketers, and to their own kids, in thinking that's all children will eat. Not so, according to researchers from Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, whose results were reported online last year in Pediatrics. They presented two groups of children with the following breakfast options: cereal, milk, orange juice, and fresh strawberries and bananas. The children could choose what they wanted to eat, and how much. Both groups were also allowed to put sugar on their cereal, from sugar packets left on the table. [Read more: Parents, Don't Be Conned by Sugary Kids' Cereals.]
7 Marketing Claims That Took Heat
A snack that prevents heart disease. A drink that bolsters the immune system. A supplement that burns off pounds. Is all of this stuff true? Is any of it true? What's behind claims like these?
In recent years, dozens of companies have gotten heat from government watchdog agencies because of inflated or unsupported claims of health benefits. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission sued POM Wonderful, accusing the company of deceptively advertising its pomegranate juice and POMx supplements. The company's claims of "super health powers" capable of treating or preventing prostate cancer and other conditions are "false and unsubstantiated," according to the FTC. Days later, the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to three mouthwash makers that had been touting their products for prevention of gum disease, although no such benefit had been proven in studies.
"We're all looking for ways to be healthier, and that makes us easy prey to slick marketing campaigns," says George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. "These campaigns identify buzz words that encourage us to try the product. Words that imply improvement in performance, endurance, or overall health do influence consumers' purchasing habits." [Read more: 7 Marketing Claims That Took Heat.]
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