Let There Be Lazy Cakes! Will Brownie Ban Be Busted?

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In May, the Arkansas Dept. of Health (ADH) ordered a recall of “Lazy Cakes,” a brownie promising “ultimate relaxation” due to the presence of the natural sleep aid melatonin baked right in. ADH cited a “possible health risk” from the snacks, particularly for children who might eat the product unaware of the sleep supplement.

But there may be hope yet, if you’re a fan of both brownies and relaxation! Word is that the manufacturer, Baked World of Memphis, has been working with Health Dept. honchos to negotiate packaging changes, with the goal of alleviating the state’s concerns about the product and getting the recall lifted.

The packaging revisions include a name change (the product is now called a “Lazy Larry” rather than a “Lazy Cake”) and replacing the words “Relaxation Brownie” on the front of the package with the words “Ultimate Relaxation” and, in a smaller typeface below, “Dietary Supplement.” 

The header photo shows the difference between the packing box, which sports the old design, and the revised packaging on the brownie itself.

The company also appears to have reformulated the product recipe to reduce the melatonin dosage. While the original Lazy Cakes boasted about 8 mg. of melatonin per brownie (as part of a “proprietary calming blend” that also includes valerian root, passion flower and rose hips), the new Lazy Larry label notes a melatonin content of 4 mg. per brownie. So make a mental note to eat twice as many to get the same languid effect.

In which the blogger delves into the dark netherworld of controlled substances

Following the prohibition, I ordered a Lazy Larry (nee Lazy Cakes) three-pack ($9.99, and you damn well better believe I’m listing that as a business expense) for a test drive. As a snack, it won’t blow you away—mine were a little dry, like eating a cocoa-flavored sponge—but it’s no worse than the usual fare you might grab at a convenience store.

If you’re expecting some wild psychotropic effects from the brownies, that wasn’t my experience. It just made me drowsy. Really drowsy. Thirty minutes after eating a Lazy Larry one evening, I was yawning widely and ready to drift off,  and I slept really well, so let’s check off the “ultimate relaxation” part of the sales pitch as 100 percent true.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

I asked Ed Barham, the ADH spokesman, what all the hullaballoo was about. Why the recall, says I?

His agency’s concern, he explained, stemmed from the presence of a relatively high dosage of melatonin in the brownie, and from reports that children (especially adolescents and junior high age kids, Barham said) were consuming the product.

Barham noted that ADH only moved to ban Lazy Cakes after receiving complaints from citizens that the product was being sold to kids. He did not have a count of how many complaints were received, but said “it didn’t take very many” for the department to take action.

“As soon as we found out that there was a product that had many times the dose than what would be prescribed for a sleep aid, in a product that was being sold as a snack, that was something that concerned us,” Barham said.

‘Nonsense’

It’s hard to see the Lazy Cakes recall in Arkansas as anything but a hysterical bureaucratic overreaction to a perceived, but unproven, threat to public health.

After all, each of the components in the brownies are completely legal.If you wanted to grab a bottle of melatonin at their nearest Walgreens and bake the supplement into a brownie, or just pop a handful of melatonin pills while eating a brownie, there’d be nothing to stop you.Hysterical overreaction pull quote

Baylen Linnekin, a University of Arkansas Law School grad who heads up Keep Food Legal, a national advocacy group dedicated to “culinary freedom,” said the state’s case against the melatonin brownies is “nonsense.”

“The state’s scare language about melatonin—how it’s ‘not intended or approved to be used in food products’—is particularly ridiculous,” Linnekin said. “C’mon. Melatonin is a hormone that occurs naturally in a host of foods–including in sour cherries and bananas. Are those foods next?”

Good points, those. But perhaps we should just take what we can get and be comforted to know that, with the new packaging, we may soon be able to return to mellowing out with our relaxation brownies, and I’ll know that all those “Lazy Points” I accumulated won’t go to waste.

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