It’s that time of year again, when pre-teen girls (AND THEIR PARENTS) start playing on the good will of friends, family, neighbors and co-workers as they start peddling their tasty and addictive sugary goodness. Yes, all hail the mighty Girl Scout Cookies sales! This time comes as regularly as the tide and it is upon us all again. I should know, our oldest just got her sales packet, set her sales goals and wants me to help her do her sales pitch. This year I told her she was on her own (sort of, I’m still hitting up my coworkers).
Selling Girl Scout Cookies is an important event within a young girls life. If done correctly, it teaches about hard work, money, and how to “close the deal and make the sale.” And let’s all face it, those cookies are really good! Unless of course, you have Milk, Soy, Wheat or Peanut allergies, then these cookies turn deadly.
When we got my daughter’s order form, she excitedly told me about some of the new cookies that were added to the list: Dulce de Leche and Lemon Chalet Cremes. Yum! Then I decided to read the ingredients to see how they might affect my youngest daughter who has peanut allergies. I grabbed the order form and started perusing the ingredients. I was a bit angered with the result.
These days, all labels are required to include allergens that are in the item’s ingredients. This allergy alert information typically appears in bold at the end of the list of ingredients. This has become such a helpful addition to the packaging that it is difficult to literally live without it. I wish, for example, we could get these same labels for meals we eat at restaurants or when we go to parties. It would be so nice to allow my youngest to come off “the peanut leash” once and a while. But her allergies are deadly and we can’t control how people that we don’t know prepare their food.
The labels for the Girl Scout Cookies have taken the first step by complying with the labeling standards. They have also added a tiny section in red that says: “All products contain wheat, soy and milk ingredients.” Do-si-dos and Tagalongs contain peanuts. Lemon Chalet Cremes may contain peanuts. Trefoils and Sugar Free Chocolate Chips may contain tree nuts or traces of tree nuts.” Boy, THAT is encouraging. Basically, for my youngest daughter, she cannot enjoy any of these cookies.
Soy Beans, it turns out, are part of the same family that Peanuts are in, the legume family. This also includes Peas (great excuse for her to not eat her peas, I guess). However, so many products nowadays use Soy in one way or another. Luckily, she is only mildly allergic to it. However, we are not sure to what extent this Soy allergy goes. Recently, she had a sample of some Clam Chowder at Costco, a brand that she has had before and immediately developed rashes and welts around her mouth after eating some. We aren’t sure if the manufacturer changed the ingredient mix or if her allergies to Soy increased. One way or another, it was scary.
I would like to get to the crux of this post though. Now, more than ever, children are being diagnosed with food allergies. Progress is being made within food manufacturers and even restaurants (many now do not cook with peanut oil, for example). However, there is a LONG way to go before children and their parents can truly feel at ease eating out or consuming manufactured foods. I have written about peanut allergies before here. (A bit tongue in cheek but with serious undertones.)
Girl Scout Cookies are manufactured at two facilities: ABC/Interbake Foods and Little Brownie Bakers. There IS an allergen link on the Girl Scout FAQ page here but it simply points to the manufacturer pages. ABC/Interbake Foods does a good job at describing their efforts to reduce allergens (which is encouraging). To quote from their FAQ page:
Question: How do you look out for people like me who have food allergies?
Answer: Over a decade ago, ABC partnered with Food Allergen and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to learn more about life threatening food allergies and the impact of ingredient labeling and allergen warnings. We have also worked with the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program in association with the University of Nebraska to review our sanitation, handling and training procedures. Prior to FDA guidelines requiring labeling for potential allergens, ABC adapted what is known as “product specific” allergen labeling. Product specific labeling enables the allergy-affected consumer to make an informed decision based on information specific to that particular product. While broad “across the line” statements such as “this product may contain traces of peanuts” meets the current FDA requirements, it is limiting to the increasing number of allergy sufferers across the country.
Product specific labeling requires strict compliance to good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contamination such as:
* Segregation of known allergens from the general production environment
* Color-coding of storage units and utensils
* Color-coding of employee uniforms
* Curtained off production areas
* Designated lanes for transportation of known allergens
* Swabbing and testing of allergen shared equipment
In addition, we call out all allergens on our packaging and order cards and provide specific warning if a product is made on a line that also produces product with a common allergen such as peanuts. ABC’s proactive approach to allergens is an example of our commitment to producing the best quality Girl Scout Cookies possible for the millions of valued consumers who support Girl Scouting every year.
Excerpt of email from consumer and Girl Scout mom:
“ABC is wonderful and has taken the time to implement safe manufacturing processes to protect children with food allergies. When I called last year, they were happy to answer questions and explain about their manufacturing process and safe dedicated lines. It is very hurtful to food allergic families when companies would rather make the statement “may contain traces of…” rather than illuminate the problem of cross contamination. We would be happy to represent a company like ABC that has taken a leadership role in safe manufacturing.”
My proposal is simple, at least in articulation. The Girl Scouts should make ALL EFFORTS to either:
- find a manufacturer that produces allergen-free cookies or
- require their current manufacturers to produce allergen-free cookies.
Easier said than done, right? It would be hard to get a completely allergen-free cookie made, especially with the removal of wheat, soy and milk ingredients. However, having some cookies produced in a “peanut-free” environment might be easier and would definitely be a good starting point. The ideal would be to have just ONE cookie selection that is completely peanut-free. It would go a long way with both the buyers and sellers.
I realize that this type of change would be costly and would take time to implement. However, if enough people requests this, I would think that some changes would take place. It would have to be a “grass roots” type of movement so I figured I would take the first stab at it by writing this post. Leave a comment or contact your local Girl Scout Organization to request that some efforts be made to make these wonderful cookies a bit more “friendly” to those people with food allergies. Also, be sure to DIGG this post to help raise awareness!
HTD Says: If you feel that the Girl Scout Organization should work towards producing more Allergen-free Cookies, please leave a comment or let your local Girl Scout troop know.