Apparently today is National Girl Scout Cookie Day. I’m not quite sure who got to decide that (perhaps the Girl Scouts?), but it’s a pretty slick marketing ploy. Social media is all abuzz, parents are delivering cookies to coworkers, and you can even find Girls wearing cookie costumes, shilling for über-processed junk-food.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the Girl Scouts, and have tremendous respect for their organization. But I won’t buy their cookies.
I am an Eagle Scout, so I fully understand the positive impact a youth program like the Girl Scouts has on kids’ lives. And I’ll admit, as Boy Scouts we were always jealous that the Girl Scouts had cookies as their fundraising tool. We sold popcorn, which always just felt kind of lame and certainly couldn’t compete. (Unless there’s a National Boy Scout Popcorn Day that I’m not aware of?)
A couple of weeks ago, two very cute Girl Scouts rang our doorbell, wanting to sell us cookies. Matty and I gave them a donation instead of buying a box. My gripe about the cookies isn’t that they’re cookies – we can all enjoy a sweet treat every so often (though please don’t use the word “moderation”), and I’ve been known to enjoy my fair share of Thin Mints right out of the freezer.
So why won’t I buy Girl Scout Cookies anymore? Put simply, they violate all three of my rules!
They’re all made with refined flour.
Most of them contain high fructose corn syrup.
And almost all of the flavors contain partially hydrogenated oils. That means they have trans fats – even though their marketing prominently claims “Our cookies have zero grams trans fat per serving.” They can do this because of the trans fat loophole in the labeling laws. Artificially created trans fats have no legitimate place in our food supply; there’s no safe intake level of them, and it’s definitely possible for these cookies to be made without them. Other manufacturers do it, so why can’t the Girl Scouts?
Most of the cookies also contain “natural” and artificial flavors. Both natural and artificial flavors have become a big pet peeve of mine, since they’re found in nearly every product these days. Taken individually, they may not be so bad. But as a whole, they’re impacting our ability to know and appreciate what real food actually tastes like.
And now for 2013, their new Mango Cremes with NutriFusion cookies are “enhanced with nutrients.” They’re adding “natural whole food concentrate” of cranberry, pomegranate, orange, grape, strawberry, and shiitake mushrooms to the cookies – in a minuscule amount – and using that to market them as healthier. That’s nothing more than blatant healthwashing. (On the flip-side, at least that particular flavor doesn’t contain trans fats…).
Last year, around this time, there was a huge uproar about the use of palm oil in the cookies. Yielding to pressure, they’re now giving lip service to the palm oil issue - only 15% of the palm oil they’re using this year is sustainable. But at least they’re working on it.
How about we apply some pressure to get them to remove all trans fats and fake flavors from their cookies, and to stop pretending their new cookies with added vitamins are any less unhealthy than the rest of their cookies?
The Girl Scouts can – and must – do better for our kids and for everyone who buys those cookies. What do you think?
(If you’re with me, but are still jonesing for Thin Mints, try my friend Adair’s awesome Chocolate-Covered Mint Leaves instead).