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Posted on Mon, May 23, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan health officials look for signs of increased melatonin consumption in drinks and food like Lazy Cakes

By Juliana Keeping

The parents of a Michigan child who took a few swigs of a melatonin-laced beverage bought at a gas station called the Michigan Poison Control Center in March.

It’s the only call of its kind so far this year in this state. However, it could be a sign that the consumption of new food and beverage products containing melatonin — a hormone used to help regulate the sleep cycle — is on the rise.


Angela J. Cesere |

Melatonin-laced drinks and brownies with names like Marley’s Mellow Mood, Slowtivate, and Lazy Cakes have captured the attention of health and public officials in recent weeks, buoyed by a recent New York Times article about the unregulated products.

Last week, the Arkansas Health Department banned Lazy Cakes, brownies marketed as an herbal supplement that contain 8 milligrams of melatonin.

The Food and Drug Administration warned the manufacturer of the melatonin-containing beverage that prompted the Michigan Poison Control call — called Drank Extreme Relaxation — in January 2010 that the hormone is not an FDA-approved food additive.

A spokesperson for the FDA said last week that the matter is ongoing, declining to provide details.

But the Poison Control call involving the same beverage shows it’s been recently available in Michigan.

And more like it are available around Ann Arbor, including Marley’s Mellow Mood, which is manufactured in Southfield and distributed in 60 markets. Its Facebook page has over 4,000 “likes.”

Records for the March call indicated Drank Extreme Relaxation contained the hormone as well as valerian root and rose hips, herbs with sedative properties, said Susan Smolinske, the director of the Children's Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center.

Citing patient confidentiality, Smolinske said she couldn’t provide any further details on that call.

Poison Control has received 100 calls involving melatonin in 2011, with 76 involving children, she said. The March call was the only one that involved a food or beverage product. About 10 callers reported drowsiness as an effect of the intake of melatonin, and the vast majority reported no symptoms.

The recommended daily dosage for melatonin ranges from 0.2 to 24 milligrams a day, she said. Most pills contain 3 milligrams of the hormone, she said.

But melatonin-containing beverages found in Ann Arbor, like Marley’s Mellow Mood, don’t say on nutrition labels how much melatonin is in the drink.

In a written statement, Paul Fuegner, chief marketing officer for ViVa Beverages LLC, which is manufacturing and marketing the drink in a partnership with Marley Beverage Company in Southfield, explained:

“Our special blend of natural, botanical ingredients is proprietary, so we cannot provide specific information for competitive reasons. Marley's Mellow Mood teas and sodas have been meticulously formulated with an exotic blend of all natural botanical ingredients sourced from around the world.”

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter.


Steph B

Thu, May 26, 2011 : 4:18 a.m.

Hello! Consuming unnecessary (and artificial) hormones is rarely ever a good idea. This is why consuming non-organic dairy, meats, etc. is risky because of all the growth hormones injected into the animals to make them bigger, faster. And we're putting this crap in our bodies everyday. Yikes! And now we have the sleep hormone in soft drinks? Seriously?! Ridiculous.


Wed, May 25, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

Just remember, corporations are evil. They want your money. They don't mind killing you to get it, as long as it doesn't kill you too quickly or inexpensively. The government will do what the corporations want them to do, usually nothing. Because the doorway between business and government is a revolving doorway and those on one side will move to the other once their usefulness has run it's course. Meanwhile, please focus your attention on more urgent matters like Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, or "Dancing With the Stars". Thank you for your continued inattention.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

I agree with most of these comments and I just want others to know that for those of us who "can't" swallow pills, we need more products like this available, esp. if they are as natural as can be! Also, product placement could help, don't put these next to the soda, put them in the sleep aid aisle!!!!


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

Going to U of M and living in Ann Arbor taught me to be very careful when eating brownies . . .


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

Parenting, yes, but this stuff is poison, just like the alcohol based herbal drinks..... Or any alcohol based drink, for that matter :P


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

This is just another case of The Man holding us down. I need to get my Lazy on!


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

I can see where this is a concern for parents, who may not be well informed about herbal sedatives, althougth honestly, what parent with any sense would allow their child to consume a product with a name like this ? They are being pretty up front about the fact that it has specfic pharmaceutical properties in the branding. Of greater long term concern would seem to be the risk that someone drinks one of these, gets in their car, falls asleep while driving and kills someone. Valerian is a powerful herbal sedative and 24 mg of melatonin could put a cub scout troop to sleep! There are plenty of other herbs with these properties as well, (will not bore readers with the details) and the irresponsible compounding of such products creates risk to the people around the consumer if they are operating machinery, vehicles, etc. Further, this kind of thing will inevitably lead to a backlash against responsible individual use of herbal supplements. The the do-gooder community in concert with the pharmaceutical industry, which wants to get rid of cheap natural products with thousands of years of human testing behind them in favor of the overpriced, under-tested, over-marketed patented facsimiles, already tries to ban certain supplements or all of them on a regular basis .


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

It is good to get this info out and inform parents. With younger children, they can definitely control the use of such drinks. However, with teenagers, who typically buy such things themselves while away from parents, it's trickier. A discussion of parental concerns is in order.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

While I agree in principle with the concern about unspecified amounts of certain additives going into the food supply, I find it amusing that a relatively innocuous natural substance like melatonin would cause such an uproar when the public is already ingesting thousands of chemical concoctions in the form of over-the-counter drugs, artificial food additives, and pesticide residues.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

We should all be in an uproar about all of the "yucky stuff" that is being added to our food products. And, it would also be great to not be daily bombarded with "Drug" commercials for every type of ailment in the world --just listening to the side effects mentioned at the end of each ad is enough to make one w3onder if "well, I won't have a head ache any more, but probably won't be around to enjoy it."


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

I believe that we all need to be responsible for what goes in our mouths. For quite some time now, I review any new product for ingredients that are included in making it. Anything questionable, goes back on the counter. And added to that, shame on those manufacturers who feel it is a-okay to make and sell products that could be potentially harmful to individuals --- meditation works wonders on the body without filling it with chemicals. Lets all work to become less dependent on chemicals for our happiness.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 11:22 a.m.

I agree that the government should definately look into whether or not these produccts are safe for people to eat. However, this sounds like a parenting problem as much as a potential health issue. Where are the parents when their kids are eating this food? Why didn't the parents simply say "No, you may not have that." From experience, parents need to be involved more than ever. There are so many things out these that are totally inappropriate for children.


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Too much melatonin?


Mon, May 23, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

My apologies for the typos. I was half-awake when I wrote the comment.