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Girl Scout Cookies High in Trans Fat

One of the more popular rites of springtime has becoming a lightning rod for controversy and arguably a likely contributor to the obesity crisis that's plaguing millions of children and adults in America. And from an organization that helps millions of kids across the world every year in so many other beneficial ways too. As Girl Scouts hit the streets and area grocery stores for their annual cookie sales, critics, including me, are very concerned their annual sales drive, that nets the organization some $400 million, is being fueled by the sale of cookies chock full of trans fats and poisoning the health of millions.

The organization tried to head off some of the criticism by issuing a lengthy white paper last year entitled, "Weighing In: Helping Girls Be Healthy Today, Healthy Tomorrow," the first salvo in a "healthy living" initiative the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) plans to roll out later this year.

Despite such preemptive moves, the criticism keeps on coming from parents and food activists rightly concerned about the dangers of trans fat. Even a New York chef and a food activist working to reform school lunch programs who is working with the GSA on their health initiative brought up the trans fat issue first and foremost in her discussions with them. One quote speaks volumes: "You can't have a lifestyle initiative without changing the cookie because you look like a bunch of idiots."

Trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids, is an artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oils are hardened into margarine or shortening. It is found in many other foods besides margarine and shortening, however, including fried foods like french fries and fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers. The FDA has mandated all food manufacturers begin listing the amount of trans fat in their products starting next year, although some have already begun to do so, including the makers of Girl Scout cookies.

The best way to protect your family from the dangers of trans fat: Eliminate processed foods from your diet. That's where the artery-clogging trans fat lives. Trans fats have led to a major increase in cancers, arthritis, fatigue and nearly all chronic illnesses. Also, trans fats are also playing an enormous role in the dramatic rise of diabetes. The recent statistics show more than 16 million Americans have it and it is becoming an epidemic largely due to the shift in our food choices.

New York Times March 9, 2005

Spartanburg Herald-Journal March 9, 2005

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