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Girl Scout Cookies: Epic Fail

By · Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Now that the Girl Scout Cookie sales have started, I can’t sit by and stay silent about the atrocities that these well meaning scouts are innocently perpetrating on their families, their friends and even the planet. I’m well aware that these cookies have a place in the hearts and minds of so many people. My mom was a  troop leader and the cookie chair when I was a kid. When I was a much younger, more naive mom, I was part of the cookie craze. My daughter got a big fancy badge one year because we staked out her sister’s child care center and sold them out of the back of my van!  I’m no longer that young and innocent. Now that I know what I know about the ingredients of Girl Scout cookies, I can’t eat them, I don’t let my kids eat them and I really want to encourage you not to buy or eat them either.

This is not about childhood obesity or that word, “moderation”.  I’m fine with a few cookies every now and then. I’ll buy Tate’s cookies or whip up a batch of my own.  It’s not about the calories or even the fat grams in Girl Scout cookies.

Here’s a link to the Nutrition information for this years Girl Scout cookies. It’s not the nutrition information, the calories or grams of trans fats that I’m concerned about.  Its the INGREDIENTS. You’ll need to magnify the page to be able to read them. For the most part, they got rid of any High Fructose Corn Syrup. Little Brownie Bakers knows that moms no longer tolerate HFCS as an ingredient. They’ve replaced it with sugar. It’s not the corn syrup or the sugar that is keeping me and my kids away from these cookies.

It’s the poor quality oils that will keep me from buying Girl Scout cookies.

The Tagalongs, Thin Mints, Samoas and DoSiDos contain cottonseed oil. Let’s start with the fact that cotton is not a food. My pal, Dr. Andrew Weil says no way is cottonseed oil okay. It is loaded with pesticide residue, cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops. Since cotton crops are under far less chemical regulation that other other crops used specifically for food, many pesticides or chemicals can be used on cotton crops that are illegal for use on food crops, how creepy is that? This oil is super cheap, so a cookie company looking to make a super cheap product will use this ingredient. In addition to the pesticide residue, cottonseed oil is extremely high in inflammatory Omega 6 oil. The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 in cottonseed oil is 259:1. For optimal health, we want a ratio of 2 parts Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3.  If you’re trying to increase your Omega 3 for health reasons, and you eat an edible foodlike substance like a Girl Scout Cookie made with cottonseed oil, you’ll have to guzzle a gallon of fish oil or flaxseed oil to balance out our omega 6:3 ratio!  Plain and simple: cottonseed oil is a hazardous ingredient that you don’t want your family ingesting.

Besides personal health, Girl Scout cookies endanger planetary health as well. That’s a bold statement, huh?  The more I’ve learned about food and food systems, the more I’ve learned about our fragile environment. Here’s why I make that statement. Every single flavor of Girl Scout Cookies this year contains Palm Oil. What’s so bad about palm oil? While it is a saturated fat, that’s not why I don’t want my kids to be eating it. I use lots of saturated fats in my cooking: butter, coconut oil even some duck fat and occasional bacon grease! Saturated fat is not the issue.

The issue is environmental. To grow palm oil, we destroy rain forests. Its not just about destroying the  planet’s  most biodiverse  ecosystems which are home to millions of plant and animal species, including highly endangered orangutans, clouded leopards, and sun bears. Its about creating runaway climate change that will impact our future on this planet. I’m not making this up- read more about it here from the Rainforest Action Network.

Now that my girls are older, I can look forward to the future when I will be a grandma. I hope to take the time to bake cookies with my grandkids, just like my grandma did with me. If we keep plowing down rainforests in the name of cheap oil to put in cheap cookies, I might never get a chance to see grandkids.

Parents of scouts: please don’t have your kids sell these cookies. Take some time, make some real cookies, make a donation to the Girl Scouts, it’s a great organization. I’d like to see their cookies go extinct. There are so many other worthwhile fundraisers that are good for people and for the planet. Please pass this on to anyone you know who  cares about the fate of the earth and hopes to have grandkids one day.

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Yikes. This is very traumatic for those of us raised on these cookies…

You may have just started a movement here. The branding of these cookies is not linked to the nutritional information panel on the packaging – after all, it’s a great cause.

But you ask (and answer) an interesting question: wouldn’t the cause be an equal marketing draw without all the bad ingredients?

Many thanks for this!


By Roseann Rutherford on February 23rd, 2010 at 10:45 am

Susan,I have been a Girl Scout for most of my life and as an adult have been a Leader for 8 years – and presently leading my youngest daughter’s troop. I have been suspect of these cookies for a few years but figured – like most things – if I was raised on them how bad can they be! Thanks to your diligent research you have answered my questions and confirmed my fears. I am planning to pass this information on to my co-leader, my troop, our local cookie coordinator, our regional director and the Heart of the Hudson Council. They may decide to give me the boot after this! I will keep you apprised. Thanks once again for doing all that you can to keep thr public informed of these atrocities.

By Angela Pizzarello on February 23rd, 2010 at 11:32 am


Thank you for this information. I’m concerned about our food safety, and I appreciate all the research you’ve done on this subject. Your information is always presented in a way that makes it easy for me to absorb and retain. Keep up the good work!

By Roseann Rutherford on February 23rd, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Gearing up to write my letter and found this as well:

“And further if a person is allergic to peanuts for example, cotttonseed oil is so similiar in it’s protein structure that a person may have a serious allergic reaction to cottonseed oil as well. Yet so far the FDA does not require allergy labeling of this product that is so similar to peanuts. This is a serious health concern. Peanut allergies can be fatal to some persons, and some similar products with similar protein structures could also create a life-threatening allergy reaction as well.”


I cannot begin to tell you how disturbed I am by all of this. Truly horrified!

Please send me a copy of the letter you create. Perhaps other parents and leaders can use it as inspiration to take a stand on this.
There are so many great ways to fundraise, cookies no longer work! How about starting seeds and selling small plants/ seedlings instead. A real homegrown fundraiser that could be highly profitable with less overhead for GS-USA. A real win-win.

Dr. Susan, thank you for writing this important post! Sorry I am so slow on the uptake, but when I saw you mention this on FB I didn’t have time to go read this post until now, but I saw the words ‘cottonseed oil’ and I knew I had to write something about this nasty substance.

I am really glad you put this information up as I am sure many people don’t realize how bad it is, and that Girl Scout Cookies contain it and palm oil.

Here’s my post about the history of cottonseed oil and its deliterious affects(that was the focus of my post). I put a link from my page to yours about this post as well.

blah blah blah…I am sure girl scout cookies are not the ONLY foods on this planet made with these oils. if you don’t like it, simple don’t buy it.

I can promise you I won’t be buying them. I avoid products with cottoneseed and palm oils. The problem with Girl Scout cookies is that unsuspecting children are made to sell these products to their families and their communities. If there was complete transparency of ingredients along with their related health and environmental impact, then people would be making an informed choice. Right now, that is not the case.

By Eileen McCabe on March 21st, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Rather than merely stopping buying them, since it is just after the sale and Little Brownie Bakers have some time to retool before the next sales campaign, why not engage in a massive letter-writing campaign to the girl Scouts, telling them the intention to not buy UNLESS they make changes in the recipes to address these concerns. Consumer action DOES make a difference.

Eileen, I’m not convinced that Little Brownie Bakers or any large food processor is capable of making cookies that are supportive of personal or planetary health. Instead, why not change the fundraiser all together to something fun that is more sustainable? Scout troops could start seedlings from seeds and sell them at a huge profit. It would be a win win win.

I was recently thinking about GS cookies after I saw some at a friend’s house. I haven’t bought them in years (sold them as a Girl Scout) and after checking the ingredients, I was just so appalled. A group that should be promoting health and wellness in the community, family and themselves should not be selling and encouraging others to eat a product that is so bad for you.

You mentioned HFCS, and I noticed that the two boxes at my friend’s house did contain it.

I think the seed idea is great, and of course gets into the next step – gardening and where our food comes from! Thanks for sharing this.

There are two national bakers of Girl Scout Cookies, ABC, and Little Brownie. Little Brownie uses cotton seed oil, ABC does not; they use Palm oil (zero transfats). Know which baker makes the cookies in your area. You may not have to boycott.

Both cottonseed oil and palm oil are unacceptable solutions to the problem of Girl Scout cookies. The best thing that the Girl Scouts could do would be abandon the cookie sales all together and do something that is better for both health and the health of the planet instead. Why not sell seedlings. Far bigger return on investment for the Girl Scouts and far better for everyone involved. Except, of course for those big industrial bakers. The best cookies are made at home with real ingredients.



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