For Shame, Girl Scouts!

>> Sunday, January 16, 2011

'Tis the time of year for cute little girls in brown vests to smile at your door with an order form for boxes of irresistible cookies.  Girl Scout cookies really do have a mystique about them, don't they?  What is it about these cookies that makes everyone drool?

I know!  Maybe it's the partially hydrogenated oil!

Yeah, sorry, total buzzkill here.  Since we gave up high fructose corn syrup (HFCS for the uninitiated) a few years ago, I have been disappointed in Girl Scout Cookies.  This wholesome organization promoting good things for girls, well, you'd think that the product they sell would be a little more wholesome for their clientele.  I don't begrudge the cookies at all, but I do have issues with the ingredient lists.

To keep things simple, we'll focus on the two ingredients on my "do not buy" list - HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils.  The first is an automatic signal that this product contains cheap, fake ingredients, and the second contains trans fat.  (Need reasons to eliminate partially hydrogenated oils and artificial trans fat from your diet?  Read my post on trans fat.)  Of course, because of lax labeling laws, Girl Scout cookies that contain partially hydrogenated oils can claim to have 0% trans fat.  By law, a product can claim to contain 0% trans fat if it has less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving.  So, a product can contain a measurable amount of trans fat, albeit small, and claim to have none. 

So, which cookies have the offending ingredients?  Here's  a rundown:

Samoas (my favorite in times past) - partially hydrogenated oil
Tagalongs - partially hydrogenated oil
Thin Mints - partially hydrogenated oil
Caramel DeLites - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Peanut Butter Patties - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Peanut Butter Sandwich - partially hydrogenated oil
Thanks-A-Lot - partially hydrogenated oil, and HFCS
Lemonades - partially hydrogenated oil
Dulce De Leche - HFCS

The only cookies with ingredient lists free from partially hydrogenated oil and  HFCS: Trefoils, Shout Outs, Shortbread, Do-Si-Dos, and Thank U Berry Much. Both Do-Si-Dos and Thank U Berry Much contain invert sugar, so if you are concerned about processed free fructose in your product, these would be no-nos as well.

I would really like to buy some cookies from the cute girls selling them that I'll see at my grocery store, but I probably won't - not even the ones on the short list.  Unfortunately, the Girl Scout organization has no real incentive to clean up their cookies' ingredient lists because people will buy the cookies - boxes upon boxes of them.  It's unfortunate that this organization chooses to sell a product with trans fat and other undesirable ingredients in them - cheap cookies made with cheap ingredients that are unhealthy even in small amounts.

For shame, Girl Scouts!

If you'd like to check out the ingredients for yourself, please visit the Girl Scout Cookies official page where there is a link to all of the nutritional and ingredient information for all of their cookies.

I know many young Girl Scouts and will not be confronting them with this information.  I'll speak with my pocketbook and my blog, but I see no reason to rain on some little girl's parade.  I also won't be haranguing my friends who do buy Girl Scout cookies with this information.  Education is great, but in the right time and place.


The Dunns January 17, 2011 at 1:38 AM  

Interesting post, but I don't think it gives enough credit to the Girl Scouts. I've been watching the ingredient lists for their cookies for the past few years and it seems like each year they eliminate more HFCS and trans fats. It would be a financial disaster for a company to completely change all their ingredients at once to eliminate HFCS and trans-fats, especially if their cookies are their primary fund raiser. But they have been doing better and continue to improve. I read the nutritional comments on the GS's FAQs page and I think they are trying. I will buy the cookies because I want to encourage them to continue in their efforts to create better products (granted, I will not buy any with HFCS). Honestly, they are such an established tradition, I think they would sell just as much if they didn't change a thing - American's love them that much. But to see them improving says something.

Lori January 17, 2011 at 4:48 AM  

I stopped buying the cookies a few years back as those ugly ingredients started showing up. Love the Girl Scouts as an organization, but I don't plan on risking my health just to support them through cookies. Glad they are making changes, but I won't be a customer again until they are complete. Well, I may never be a customer again actually, just because we don't like buying processed foods.

Our Girl Scouts hold a Thin Mint Sprint 5K every year in which I was able to participate the year before last. Such a better idea to raise funds. Exercise instead of eating cookies. Now that would help everyone. :)

nickigreen January 17, 2011 at 6:25 PM  

I also have to say that, as a lifelong Girl Scout myself, the other huge bummer about Girl Scout cookies is the ridiculously low amount of $$ that actually gets back to the girls themselves. When I sold them it was less than a quarter a box and at that time boxes were $3.50 or $4 each... it was so disappointing. I actually asked my parents if I could ask those people who said they weren't interested if they'd just give my troop a quarter instead....

Joanne January 18, 2011 at 11:30 AM  

Ugh this really IS a buzzkill! If you want to make some girl scout cookies of your own, I know Rachel of the blog Baking Bites has recreated quite a few of them in her own kitchen!

I personally gave up buying any processed foods about a year ago. If I can't make it myself, then I probably shouldn't be eating it!

Amy January 19, 2011 at 1:24 PM  

I've never heard of Thank You Berry Much. Too bad about those samoas because this morning in the paper they had like 10 recipes USING SAMOAS Girl Scout Cookies! Glad to see you aren't going to "confront the little girls with your information" lol
Stay classy Wyoming :)

Sagan January 27, 2011 at 1:31 PM  

Conflict indeed! My friend was recently selling Subway chocolate chip cookie dough as a fundraiser for her basketball team... I wanted to support her, but didn't want to buy cookies with the ingredients that are in Subway cookies. Puts you in a tough position!

Too bad they don't sell fruit...

cathy January 27, 2011 at 3:03 PM  

Sagan - I know! The 5th grade class at our local elementary school actually does sell fruit as a fundraiser - organic Fuji apples from Utah every Fall. It's a HUGE success. People know how good the apples are and eagerly await the sale. There's a market out there for really good, healthy food that could be tapped for fundraisers. I think that going for candy and cookies is just the obvious choice right now.

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