Rant - Updated February 6, 2008 - Joanne

Still still say "No!" to
Girl Scout Cookies in 2008

It's 2008 and the Girl Scout Cookie Season has officially opened once again. What's new? Not a lot. Trans fats, are still lurking in Girl Scout cookies even though the per-serving percentage is listed at zero (meaning less than 0.5%), the same as last year. High Fructose Corn Syrup is still a component of some cookies. Palm oil is still a major player.

Over the past year I've received emails scolding me for this rant. I've never said not to support the Girl Scouts (meaning "the actual girls") just to please question their corporation, the decisions of the officers to continue the insanity of this cookie program which has girls learning commerce by selling inferior cookies. The ABC/Interbake site main page especially irks me: "Girl Scout Cookies sales help girls stay active and make healthy choices. Click here to find out how."

Loophole alert: If the "Serving Size" for any GS cookie having PHOs is increased by just one cookie, it would be listed on the box as having 1 gram of trans fat. You do the math!

So what do you do when the cookie girls come?
Give them a donation - the point of this rant is not to punish the actual girl scouts. Tell them they can keep their cookies, you don't even need to explain. This year Little Brownies Baking has flyers explaining why they still use trans fat in the cookies. The ABC/Interbake site offers cookie sellers information on trans fat. The girls aren't innocently selling trans fat this year; they are knowingly selling "new and improved reduced trans fat cookies".

Yes, I know less cookies sold means the girls don't win their competition or meet the cookie goal (although I would expect that the "donation" may end up purchasing cookies which are to be distributed elsewhere). Less cookies sold, or even a statement of I don't want the actual cookies, means that hopefully a message will get through. There is always 2009!

2008 New Cookies:
The new cookies from Little Brownie Bakers are: Sugar Free Chocolate Chips, (sweetened with Acesulfame potassiumand sucralose) and Lemon Chalet Cremes. Both cookies contain vegetable oil which has PHOs (trans fat). (Based on the nutrition information on their site, all of the Little Brownie Bakers cookies contain PHOs - usually an ingredient in the vegetable shortening or vegetable oil.)

The new cookies from ABC/Interbake are 100 calorie packs of Cinnaspins, which actually contain no PHOs but have HFCS and palm oil. The Shortbreads also contain HFCS and palm oil but no transfats. Nutrition information

Still have a cookie craving? Try this Samosa recipe from Baking Bites. The website also offers taste-alike recipes for some of the other girl scout cookies.

Rant - January 24, 2007 - Joanne

Still say "No!" to
Girl Scout Cookies in 2007

It's 2007 and the Girl Scout Cookie Season has officially opened. What's new? Well despite the net-wide criticism of trans fats, it still lurks in Girl Scout cookies even though the per-serving percentage is listed at zero (meaning less than 0.5%), the same as last year. So it seems to boil down to, that the powers-that-be are too frightened that the market for Girl Scout Cookies might lessen if they messed with the cookies too much.

New Cookies
I looked over the cookies again - it really leaves me to wonder... The new cookie from ABC Baking is the "Lemonades". After flour and sugar, vegetable shortening is the third ingredient (featuring partially hydrogenated oil as its main ingredient). The new cookie from Little Brownie Bakers is: Sugar Free Little Brownies, PHO is the second ingredient after flour.

Non-PHO containing vegetable shortening is available - so is butter. These are *new* cookies - so why the devil didn't the powers-that-be, make a step towards bettering the organization by making sure that the new cookie was on the mark for change? The new Lemonades have 150 calories for 2 cookies (1 serving) and 20% of daily saturated fat - but "0g" of transfat.

Thin Mints Update:
So the only update is that Little Brownie Bakers has reduced the transfat in Thin Mints to 0g/per serving this year, down from 1g/serving last year.

The Cookie Badges
This is what irks me still. There is a badge earned for cookie sales - called the Cookie Connection Junior Badge. As part of the earning of the badge a Girl Scout must satisfy a number of requirements.  One of them is this:
"From Field to Food Shop: With your troop/group, think about different jobs, such as farmer, baker, advertiser, artist, nutritionist, which are connected to food products. With help from your leader, plan to talk to two people about their jobs and what the jobs involve. "

So where does the farmer fit into the cookie chain?
Here is the ingredient list for the popular Samosas cookies from Little Brownie Bakers:

“Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, (Soybean, Cottonseed, Coconut Palm And/Or Palm Kernel Oils, Tbhq And Citric Acid To Preserve Freshness), Enriched Flour [Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine, Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid], Corn Syrup, Coconut, Sweetened Condensed Whole Milk (Whole Milk, Sucrose), Sorbitol, Contains Two Percent Or Less Of Cocoa, Glycerine, Salt, Dextrose, Invert Sugar, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Cornstarch, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Carrageenan, Leavening (Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate)”

Let's see sugar and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat) are the first two ingredients. A little later we see corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Oh and coconut. Perhaps the girls learn about fair trade Sugar, Coconut and Cocoa farming or the crisis of over-subsidized corn farming?

Then there is the Cookie Biz Junior Badge. The idea here is obviously to teach entrepreneurial skills and reward them. I would think that the first step to teaching entrepreneurial skills would be to choose a good product? Perhaps the "Journalist" part of the that badge should be to write an exposé on the trans fat still lurking in the cookies. Perhaps the girls should have to investigate how to make a better cookie since the corporate management don't seem to have the interest?

Cookies & Dough Interest Project Award: For this older girl badge, one of the possible (scouts get to choose) badge requirements is: "Analyze the ingredients of your favorite flavor, then ask at least 10 people for their favorites. Using a computer or by hand, make a bar graph or chart showing the results, and interpret them." I wonder how many presentations chart the trans fat?

Did I mention the "Cooking with Cookies" recipes for cooking with Girl Scout cookies on the ABC/Interbake website? Tasty Lemon Double-Dipped Strawberries ??????? or the Samosas Sweet Potatoes recipe on the Little Brownie Baker's site. Shudder...

My point?
Girls Scout Corporate Leaders need to take responsibility for the future and choose better cookies for the girls to learn from. If they are going to teach, they need to learn first.

Some Other Resources

Recipe for "an early" Girl Scout Cookie

101 Cookbook's Thin Mint Cookie recipe

Girl Scouts Cookie FAQ
Rant - January 18, 2006 - Joanne

Editor's Note: Although Joanne wrote this back in January, we didn't upload this to F&B until May 23, 2006. This is my fault; I felt it was telling only part of the story. Five months later Nicholas D. Kristof's fantastic Op-Ed appears in the New York Times on May 21, 2006 – "Killer Girl Scouts" (sub. req.) – and this column more than fills in the gaps. Please read his excellent column! - Jack

Just say No! to Girl Scout Cookies this Year (2006)

When a Girl Scout attempted to sell me cookies recently I asked if they had taken the transfat out and got a very blank stare followed by a hesitant “…I think so?”

I also remember hearing that the Girl Scouts had decided to make sure that transfat would not be a component in their cookies this year. A quick visit to the Girl Scouts website should clear everything up?

What the Girl Scouts' Website Says...

The title of their web page is "Cookies -- a healthy alternative!" (2007 - Still says this!) Processed cookies are a "Healthy Alternative"? To what? But the key thing here is that the Girl Scouts *own website* implies that their transfat cookies aren't healthy, and that's why they are trying to eliminate the transfat in them. Their website article also focuses on ABC/Interbake's cookies which now "have a nutritional value of zero grams trans fat per serving" and fails to mention that their other bakery, Little Brown Bakery, did not at all eliminate unhealthy transfats. Apparently, they are promising to eliminate transfat in 2006-2007 or rather offer cookies with zero grams of transfat per serving. That's not quite the same thing (see below).

Another part of their Website:

As a values-based organization dedicated to healthy lifestyles for girls, Girl Scouting can expect the media and the public to hold the cookies sold under the Girl Scout brand up for special scrutiny."

Good, as I'm doing that right here!

I learned that Girl Scout Cookies are made by just two companies, ABC/Interbake and the Little Brown Bakery. Both make Thin Mints, which I believe is their most popular choice. This year, one of their two manufacturers, ABC/Interbake has "eliminated" transfat in five of their cookies. But, well, not exactly...

USDA on Transfat:
Zero = < 0.5g per serving

Q: Is it possible for a food product to list the amount of trans fat as 0 g on the Nutrition Facts panel if the ingredient list indicates that it contains "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?"

A: Yes. Food manufacturers are allowed to list amounts of trans fat with less than 0.5 gram per serving as zero on the Nutrition Facts panel. As a result, consumers are seeing products that list zero gram transfat on the label, while the ingredient list will have "shortening" or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on it."

This means the food contains very small amounts (less than 0.5 g) of trans fat per serving. (...and how many people do you know who confine themselves to no more than the specified serving size...how many eat 4 or less cookies at a time?)

A Look at Thin Mints
A serving of ABC's Thin Mints cookies (4 cookies), has 6g of Saturated Fat (or should I say a whopping 29% of your daily amount?) and lists transfat at 0g. That's because it's less than 0.5g and so they get to list it as 0g, per the government guidelines. But if you check the ingredients, you'll see it still has Partially Hydrogenated Oil (a.k.a. transfat) - and also, the other unhealthy ingredient, High Fructose Corn Syrup.

The other manufacturer, Little Brown Bakery, has not eliminated transfat this year. Their Thin Mints, for example, has 4g of Saturated Fat and 1g of Transfat per serving.
(Update 2008 - Little Brownies Thin Mints have 4.5g of Saturated Fat/32g serving and 0g of Transfat)

A Look at some other Girl Scout Cookies
ABC/Interbake are the ones which make the double-punch: PHO (partially hydrogenated oil a component in Vegetable shortening) and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) product: Caramel deLites.

Cartwheels is only cookie that I could find from the two companies that doesn't contain PHO is (they contain palm oil instead - update: not offered in 2008). Even the Thanks-Alot cookies have PHO.

The Little Brown Baking company which makes some of the cookies released a press release spinning the information to make it sound like they "removed" the transfat in two of the 2006 cookies (note that only two have "0g" - the others having a range of 0.5-2g per serving). In reality they have used the FDA loophole that if a product contains less than 0.5g of transfat per serving then it can be advertised as 0g transfat - while it still contains transfat - in this case “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. Neither of these cookies (Tagalongs or Lemon Coolers) are transfat free - they just contain less than 0.5g of transfat.

What are the top brass at Girl Scouts HQ Thinking?
Isn't it fair to say that someone in the top brass of the Girl Scouts has known that their cookies were unhealthy and could have made moves for change years ago? Is it a coincidence that the FDA should require transfat labeling and suddenly the Girls Scouts are realizing that transfat should be reduced (or eliminated) in their flagship fundraising product?

So I Wonder...
Do any of these girls who come to our door even know how to bake a cookie? I'm sure many of them do - and perhaps that's what they should be selling to me?! Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Girl Scouts taught their members how to make cookies using eggs and flour and butter and sugar with fresh mint from the garden and real vanilla? I'd be excited about buying such cookies! They would probably be even more excited to sell them!

I'd pay extra for them - wouldn't you? Or would you? Why do you buy Girl Scout cookies? Are you buying Girl Scout cookies to eat them or are you supporting the cause of your neighbor's daughter, your workmate's niece or your friend's granddaughter? Can you support them in a healthier, more wholesome way?

To all Girl Scouts who ask us to buy their cookies:
While we'd LOVE to support you in all that you do - we are not going to buy cookies that have partially hydrogenated oils in them - or high fructose corn syrup, or support the companies which make them. - Joanne & Jack

More: Girl Scout Cookie Nutrition takes a Step Backwards



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