Saturday, May 21, 2011


It is amazing how in a country as wealthy as the US, industry interests can override all other interests including citizen welfare. Other wise it is very difficult to explain away the unrestricted deceitful practices to mislead the consumer with tall and unsubstantiated health claims made by industry. In contrast countries in the EU are some what more sensitive to consumer health as evidenced by the recent clamp down on more than 8000 products claiming a multitude of health benefits for probiotic products being marketed. Why should the food safety issue be politicized giving any scope for bargaining with the industry is beyond comprehension. The argument of the industry that forcing them to declare negative quality of a product should be balanced with their right to highlight the strength of their products is perfectly valid provided that is supported by scientific data. The loophole currently available to the industry is going through the "dietary supplement" route which must be closed if the government there is serious in protecting their citizens from fraud.

"Since melatonin is a drug and not an approved food additive, the makers of these products are trying to get around the annoying FDA restrictions by marketing the brownies as "dietary supplements." Supplements, by order of Congress when it passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, do not have to meet FDA's rigorous scientific criteria for safety or efficacy. DSHEA applied to supplements, not foods, but the FDA has chosen to regulate foods containing such additives by the weaker rules applying to supplements and to deal with them as a regulatory gray area. Is melatonin a drug, a supplement, or in brownie form a food? The FDA is going to have to decide, and fast. A much longer story in the business section, "Foods with benefits, or so they say" (in which I am quoted) focuses on the entire poin of functional foods: the ability to put something in a product that allows you to market it using health and wellness claims. Health claims sell food products. People like buying products with a "health aura," no matter how poorly the health claim is supported by science. Science is irrelevant here. Marketing is what's relevant".

It defies logic as to why a food has to be spiked with a drug like Melatonin which is a sleep inducing medical substance. Probably when this is sold as a drug it costs more besides requiring prescription. It is possible that if the concerned authorities do not take any corrective policy measures immediately, a day is not too far off when American consumers will "enjoy" a variety of "foods" containing opiates like Marijuana and other intoxicating substances!


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