New cookie claim earns Girl Scouts a scolding -
Published Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:26 am
New cookie claim earns Girl Scouts a scolding

The Girl Scouts of the USA tried hard to squeeze some actual healthy stuff into their new cookie. And now they're trying just as hard to defend themselves against criticism that the Mango Creme is nothing but a sugary sham.

The Scouts raised eyebrows last month when they began selling the cookie, touting the partnership with a company called NutriFusion. The South Carolina-based company makes GrandFusion, a product made by grinding freeze-dried fruits and veggies into a powder and adding it to various foods.

NutriFusion says its product “supercharges” the nutritional value of food without altering its taste. “GrandFusion is a blend of fruits and/or vegetables that can significantly increase the nutritional profile, and therefore the marketability, of food, beverage and snack products,” the company says on its website.

ABC Bakers, one of two national suppliers of Girl Scout cookies, went a step further by stating that the new cookie contains “all the nutrient benefits of eating cranberries, pomegranates, oranges, grapes and strawberries!”

ABC adds: “Try some today and enjoy a delicious new way to get your vitamins!”

That claim, including the exclamation points, must have been a bridge too far for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the public-health advocate group out of Washington. The group's CEO, Anna Maria Chavez, sent a letter to the Girl Scouts, urging them to stop promoting the cookie as a healthy product.

“Unfortunately that cookie does not have the 'nutrient benefits' of eating fruit, but does have 4 grams of heart-disease-promoting saturated fat and 11 grams of tooth-decaying sugars per three-cookie serving,” the letter says. “We are concerned that by marketing these cookies as a 'delicious new way to get your vitamins,' the Girl Scouts is misleading its members and supporters and undermining their health.”

Denise Moore, product program coordinator for Girl Scout Spirit of Nebraska Council, addressed the issue:

“A cookie is a cookie. It's not masquerading as an apple or a banana,” she said.

The center points out that 98 percent of the crisp, coconut-flavored Mango Creme consists of enriched flour, dextrose (a form of sugar) and palm oil. Among the ingredients in the other 2 percent are soy lecithin, citric acid, malic acid and annatto (a natural dye that comes from the achiote tree in Latin and South America). It has “nutrients from natural whole food concentrate,” including cranberry, pomegranate, orange, grape, strawberry and even shiitake mushrooms, added for their vitamin D content.

Are the cookies horrible for you? Not if you don't eat a whole box at a time, probably. According to the label, each three-cookie serving (36 grams) has 15 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin B1, and 6 percent each of A, C, D, E and B6. A serving also has 180 calories and 8 grams of fat. By comparison, a two-cookie serving of the popular Caramel deLites has 130 calories, 6 grams of fat (5g saturated) and 12 grams of sugar.

“We've always said Girl Scout cookies are a treat. As with all snacks and treats, eat cookies in moderation,” Moore said.

The Girl Scouts of the USA responded to the letter with a statement defending the besieged cookie.

“This variety was inspired by consumer research that points to a preference for sandwich creme cookies, and a resurgent interest in adding vitamins and nutrients to snack foods in North America. The Mango Creme is not the first Girl Scout Cookie produced that includes a benefit associated with an added ingredient, or a benefit associated with a reduced or removed ingredient.

The baker of Girl Scout cookies tracks trends in the industry, Moore said. One trend is boosting the nutrition profile of foods, which Mango Creme cookies have with the additions from NutriFusion, she said.

Also, mango is a new, popular flavor.

“It's a nice change from chocolate. It's a very fruity, tangy flavor,” she said. “It's been well received.”

Cookie season ends March 24 in Nebraska and March 17 in Iowa.

World-Herald staff writer Sue Story Truax contributed to this report.

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