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Allergen-Free GIrl Scout Cookies? Child Please

January 25th, 2012

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I saw this on facebook:

SIGN THIS PETITION: Encourage the Girl Scouts to sell an allergen free Cookie.

This petition was started on May 8, 2011 in honor of Celiac Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week. For those with a food allergy, many, if not all of the Girl Scout cookies are off limits. Consumers have a choice not to buy the cookies. However, members of the Girl Scouts are encouraged to sell the cookies to learn skills, obtain prizes and be part of an organization. Despite this, the organization isn’t doing enough to support and incorporate its members that have food allergies.

The Girl Scouts license their cookies to two companies: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. Both companies have been contacted by myself and others inquiring about them producing an allergen free cookie and I have been advised that there isn’t enough of a market to support such a product. ABC Bakers even states on their website that there isn’t enough of a demand for a cookie that is free from either sugar or gluten. However, what these two bakers and the Girl Scouts have never tried is to market just one cookie that is free from the top eight food allergens.

Read the entire petition here.

Really?

First of all, let me state that I am the parent of a child who suffers from a severe tree nut allergy. He’s had a severe allergic reaction simply from being near someone (me, oops) who ate tree nuts. So I am intimately familiar with the issue of children who suffer from food allergies.

But can we please look at the big picture here? Do we really need to petition the Girl Scouts and the makers of Girl Scout Cookies to include an allergen-free cookie?  Or a gluten-free cookie so that gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant children who sell, or want to eat, Girl Scout Cookies do not feel left out?

How about petitioning the Girl Scouts to offer healthier choices alongside their brutally tasty and addicting cookies – like fruit or vegetables, for example? Are there not better ways to raise money than to peddle cookies laced with gluten, and some other some crack-like ingredient that causes unsuspecting cookie lovers to drool three months in advance of Girl Scout Cookie season?

Let me answer my own questions, if I may – No, and No. The first chipper little Girl Scout that shows up on my doorstep and tries to sell me an apple or a bag of kale will be promptly shoed next door. I want my Tagalongs, dammit – and I’m willing to pay three times the price of the poser, imitation Girl Scout cookies my local grocery store sells.

The Girl Scouts claim that they are the premier leadership organization for girls, that their $700 million Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in American, and that the girls learn five important life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. According to Wikipedia, the local Girl Scout troops selling cookies receive 10-15% of the retail price, the local Girl Scout council about 50%, and the cookie manufacturer gets the rest. Since 2007, it’s estimated that 200 million boxes of Girl Scout Cookies are sold per year. In 2008, a 15 year old girl from Dearborn, Michigan sold 17,328 boxes of cookies. That’s a lot of Thin Mints.

Based on this information, I’m willing to submit that the Girl Scouts made the right choice when they decided that selling cookies was a good way to fund programs for the kids while teaching the five life skills that they feel are important and essential.

I’m all for promoting a healthy lifestyle for our children, but I also love cookies. So instead of trying to convince the Girl Scouts to sell allergen/gluten-free cookies so none of its members feel left out, can we focus on teaching our children that 1-2 cookies is a serving – not an entire sleeve. And can we be thankful that there is much more awareness these days for children and adults who suffer from food allergies, and that there are more and more products being produced and marketed with food allergy sufferers in mind, than there were in the not so distant past?  Maybe we can also try to figure out what the heck has happened to wheat, over the years, to cause so many people to have issues.

Here’s the deal: A cookie, by definition, is a small, flat, baked treat, usually containing fat, flout, eggs, and sugar.  No one is going to buy a sugar and gluten free Girl Scout Cookie, because, among other reasons - it wouldn’t even be a cookie. So to any and all Girl Scouts and parents of Girl Scouts: Please don’t try to sell me allergen-free cookies.  I like them just the way they are - allergens, gluten and all.

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