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Why Girl Scouts are still working on a 'no trans-fat' cookie badge

January 26, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health
(Chris Walker / Chicago Tribune )

It's Girl Scout cookie season. And the Girl Scouts, on their honor, pledge that the top-selling cookies have no trans-fats.

But they do.

The issue goes to the heart of how food products are labeled so consumers know what they're eating -- or trying to avoid eating.

In the case of the Girl Scout cookies, popular Samoas, Tagalongs and Thin Mints are made with hydrogenated oil. But the amount falls below the 0.5 grams per serving that the Food and Drug Administration requires on labeling. Hence the "no trans-fat" claim. A Chicago Tribune story explains:

"In this case of Samoas, that's two cookies. So a person who eats eight of them could be taking in nearly 2 grams of trans fats -- a substance the National Academy of Science says cannot be safely consumed in any amount." And here's what constitutes a single serving of cookies.

Now, the Girl Scouts get points for being remarkably forthcoming about what's in the cookies and why. The cookie FAQ page explains why their bakers use hydrogenated oils, and posts some tough health-related questions, including this one:

"Q: Why don't you offer cookies that are whole-wheat, wheat-free, non-dairy, dairy-free, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, organic, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, low-fat, non-fat, fat-free, etc.?"

Wow, we'll just settle for zero trans-fats. For now.

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