Girl Scout cookie-selling season is upon us, but this year those grinning children in insignia-bedecked vests are serving up their caramelized confections and mint-chocolate morsels with a side of controversy.

In Chicago, where ordering just wound down, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Girl Scouts' three most popular cookies--Samoas, Tagalongs, and Thin Mints--contained "artery-clogging" partially hydrogenated oils despite boasting of having "0 grams trans fat," which the Food and Drug Administration permits because the amount of trans fat per serving is below 0.5 grams. The issue, as many of us know, is that once you eat one Samoa (serving size: two cookies), it's hard to stop. The Tribune explains that a person who eats eight Samoas "could be taking in nearly 2 grams of trans fats--a substance the National Academy of Science says cannot be safely consumed in any amount."

Then we learned from the Wall Street Journal that the recession has not spared the Girl Scouts. To slash costs and boost profits, a handful of Girl Scout councils are trimming their cookie roster to their six most popular varieties, dropping more obscure options like Thank U Berry Munch and Dulce de Leche (which--yes, really--was apparently aimed at Spanish speakers, to promote "diversity"). The Girl Scouts are running seminars and "cookie colleges" to teach girls why the "Super Six" pilot program makes business sense and how to make an effective sales pitch.

There's a lot here to chew on, so let's take reaction to these two developments one by one:

TRANS FATS

  • Eliminate Trans Fats Now! demands Sarah Parsons at Change.org. In an article entitled "Heart Disease: Girl Scout Cookies' Secret Ingredient," she explains that trans fats are linked to heart disease and diabetes:
The Girl Scouts claim that the organization strives to "build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place." Let's tell the Girl Scouts that taking heart unhealthy ingredients out of their cookies is one way they could "make the world a better place."
  • Girl Scouts Aren't Only Ones, The Week points out, in a guide to trans-fat labeling: "Chips Ahoy, Nilla Wafers, and Nutter Butters, for example, also contain some partially hydrogenated oils but claim to have zero trans fats."
  • Enjoy Our Cookies in Moderation, advises Girl Scouts spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins, as quoted by the Tribune: "We are always looking for ways to make healthier cookies that still appeal to our audience ... but we do know that our girls are selling a beloved American treat that is to be enjoyed in moderation." Tompkins did not specify the amount of trans fat in Samoas, Tagalongs, or Thin Mints. Then again, they are cookies.

COOKIE DOWNSIZING

  • This Isn't a 'Confectionery Catastrophe', cautions Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner: "The alterations to the snack roster are unlikely to upset a majority of customers, as scouts are still sweet on staples such as Thin Mints, Trefoils, and Tagalongs."
  • Are They Really Retiring Flops? wonders Yahoo's Mike Krumbholtz. To his surprise, he finds that some of the most searched-for Girl Scout cookies on the web are varieties on the chopping block like Shout Outs and Dulce de Leche.
  • Girl Scout Cookies Are Like the Economy, reasons Gawker's Hamilton Nolan: "It was working just fine. Then someone got the bright idea to hugely expand it. Then it collapsed. Soon, there will be just six kinds of Girl Scout cookies left ... Can you get by with just six different kinds of hand-peddled cookie, America? You sicken me."