ABC Manufactures Anti-Cookie, Anti-Free Market Story

ABC Manufactures Anti-Cookie, Anti-Free Market Story

By Amy Menefee
March 21, 2005

     News flash from ABC: Cookies are not health food, anonymous sources say.

     Peter Jennings said on March 18s World News Tonight that someone made a connection between Girl Scout cookie sales and obesity.

     Someone raised an issue we hadnt thought of before, Jennings said. Acting on this news tip, we asked our medical correspondent, John McKenzie, for his take on this, he said.

     What followed was a series of interviews titled Cookie Controversy with anti-junk-food spokespeople and a doctor saying that cookies are unhealthy, leading to the conclusion that the Girl Scouts of the USA really are not very nice for selling them.

     ABCs McKenzie begins by mentioning the critics who are supposedly stirring up this controversy. Yet, the Web sites of these critics carried no recent press releases attacking Girl Scout cookies. Jennings allusion to someone who thought of it was the only clue about where the story originated.

     ABCs sources included Ann Cooper, a chef and advocate of organic lunches in schools, and Michael Jacobson, a member of the board of directors for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

     CSPI has long been a crusader against junk food and the food industry in general and is fond of generating public scares. In 1997, it labeled the Girl Scouts Thin Mints and Samoas some of the worst cookies you can buy, comparing them to the evil Keebler family of fudge-dipped goodies. Jacobson opined in the broadcast that Ideally the Girl scouts would be selling products that dont undermine their customers health. He suggested key chains.

     Jennings pointed out the at least $100 million the Girl Scouts make selling cookies each year. ABC included a brief comment from Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Kathy Cloninger, who characterized cookies as a delicious occasional treat. She clearly did not advocate an exclusive diet of Girl Scout cookies.

     The glaring omission in this manufactured story was the simple right of the Girl Scouts to sell cookies. Not one source voiced this point. Cooper praised the Girl Scouts as an organization.

     Ironically, the anti-cookie CSPI lists the Girl Scouts on its own Web site as partners in its National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity. According to the site, this group of organizations advocates national policies and programs to promote healthy eating and physical activity to help reduce the illnesses, disabilities, premature deaths, and costs caused by diet- and inactivity-related diseases. The Girl Scouts also joined CSPI in a 1999 petition to the Food and Drug Administration to list added sugars on nutrition labels.

     Those little green- and brown-clad girls arent part of a cookie conspiracy. Theyre just enjoying Americas free marketplace, no matter how much ABC might object.