I really shouldn’t post on April Fools’ Day, since the interwebs go a little nuts today. But it’s been a colorful week, so I’m ignoring the date and carrying on.
Which brings me to the news that the FDA, after two days of hearings, has decided to do exactly nothing about artificial colors in our food supply. As anyone who reads or talks to me for two minutes knows, I’ve written a lot about the dangers of petroleum-derived food dyes. And I’ll be writing more about the FDA’s non-decision soon. But, in the meantime, I like Melanie Warner’s take in her Food Fight column, including this bit of optimism: “Perhaps the FDA is hoping that its hearings will generate enough public pressure to nudge food manufacturers to voluntarily start taking food dyes out of their products.”
Speaking of voluntarily removing suspect ingredients: Last I checked, the Girl Scouts were still selling cookies bad for us and the planet. So when a friend sent along an e-mail promoting the Girl Scouts’ “Go Green” products, I did a doubletake. Surely this was a prank from some palm-oil-protesting wiseguy. But no. It’s for real.
You’ll note, however, that the Scouts’ endangered-species patch is not an orangutan. That’s probably no surprise for Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, the two Girl Scouts I’ve mentioned who are campaigning to persuade the Scouts to ditch palm oil because it destroys orangutan habitats.
Kellogg’s, which owns Little Brownie Bakers, one of two companies licensed to make Girl Scout Cookies, last month announced plans to move toward using sustainable palm oil. But it’s hard to take that seriously when there are so many questions about the legitimacy of green palm oil. And when conservation organizations like the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., advocate for avoiding palm oil altogether. (We were pleasantly surprised on a recent trip to see signs in the zoo restaurants explaining why none of the food contains palm oil.) It’s also not clear how, if at all, this move would affect Girl Scout cookies.
But here’s a bright spot: Spoonfed reader Jennifer McNichols, a photographer, blogger and Girl Scout leader from Texas, pointed me to this fantastic open letter she wrote to the Girl Scouts. In it, she recounts her 6-year-old daughter’s decision to sell homemade cookies (48 dozen!) instead of Girl Scout cookies, and split profits evenly between her troop and an orangutan outreach project. Jennifer uses her experience with and belief in the Girl Scouts organization to make a compelling case for why the Scouts should start practicing the values they preach:
“To me, Girl Scouts of the USA’s stance sends a frightening message to girls, and that message is the one they already receive on every corporate-sponsored kids’ cartoon and in free teaching materials provided by fast food chains: That ‘making a difference’ is all about thinking small, and keeping it that way, and making the easy choices while putting off the hard ones until it’s too late. Picking up litter and encouraging recycling but never asking where all this waste is coming from and what can be done about it. Getting fresh air and exercise but never examining the food we eat or where it comes from. Running ‘Save the Rainforests’ educational campaigns while selling cookies that contribute to their destruction. You — we — were supposed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
“Next year’s curriculum is It’s Your Planet — Love It! and I’m not making excuses for you any longer. Those voices you heard over the past few months telling people not to buy Girl Scout cookies are going to be louder next year, and you’re going to have fewer allies ready to argue against them.”
Go, Jennifer! Please read her whole letter and forward it far and wide. It’s a terrific piece.