Girl Scout cookies no friend of trans fat

Published February 24, 2007

NEW YORK - For much of the country, it's Girl Scout cookie time again. And this year, all those cookies, not just the Thin Mints and a few others, will come nearly free of harmful trans fats.

The Girl Scouts have marked their 90th year in the cookie business by getting most of the artificial fat out of all varieties of their iconic treats, which had been under attack by a few health-focused consumer groups.

Tinkering with a popular recipe is something no cook does lightly, and Denise J. Pessich, vice president of Girl Scouts of the USA, said the changes were only made after the two commercial bakeries that make the cookies found trans-fat alternatives that didn't compromise flavor, texture or shelf life.

Pessich said she was confident fans would notice few differences. The recipe changes have also given troop leaders an opportunity to talk more about the importance of eating right, Pessich said.

"They know that, for one thing, you need to make informed choices. You need to read labels," she said.

In making the adjustments, the Scouts are following other manufacturers who rid their products of trans fats after the Food and Drug Administration began requiring food labels to carry information on the substance last year. Scientific studies have linked trans fats to heart disease.

Cities around the country are also taking steps to ban trans fats at restaurants. New York became the first city to do so last year.

The Scouts have been careful not to bill the updated cookies as health food. Even with the changes, most varieties are still high in sugar and saturated fat.

"Like any snack food, you talk about moderation," Pessich said.

In fact, the Scouts are quick to point out, the new recipes aren't technically trans-fat-free either.

A look at the nutrition label reveals that most varieties still contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil - the primary source of trans fats in the U.S. diet. But the amount is less than half a gram per serving, low enough to allow a "zero grams of trans fat" label under FDA rules.