Mom urges gluten-free Girl Scout cookies

Girl Scouts of Nassau County teams up with shipper DHL to send thousands of the treats to military troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (April 19, 2011)

Girl Scouts of Nassau County teams up with shipper DHL to send thousands of the treats to military troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (April 19, 2011)

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A Dix Hills Brownie Girl Scout has sold hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies since she joined two years ago -- but has never tasted as much as one Samoa herself.

Elle Malinow, 7, has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes her body to attack her small intestine if she ingests gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

The Girl Scouts don't offer a gluten-free cookie among their Thin Mints, Tagalongs and other varieties, leaving Elle able to sell them, but unable to eat them.

"Often the customers will say, 'I can't decide -- what's your favorite cookie?' And she'll say, 'I don't know,' " said Elle's mom, Stacy Malinow.

Malinow said she tried asking the Girl Scouts of the USA, as well as the two companies that the Scouts use to bake the cookies, to create a cookie for people with food allergies.

Earlier this month, Stacy Malinow began an online petition to press the Girl Scouts to begin selling an "allergen-free" cookie. The petition attracted more than 2,000 signatures in 21/2 weeks.

"They [Girl Scouts] just keep saying, 'We'll take your request, we'll make note of your request,' but nothing's been done," Malinow said. "The one thing they keep saying is they don't see enough of a market yet. My intention to do this [start the petition] was to prove them wrong." "

Neither the Girl Scouts of the USA, nor the two companies that bake the cookies -- Little Brownie Bakers, which is owned by Kellogg Company, and ABC Bakers, part of Interbake Foods LLC -- responded to requests for comment.

But the Girl Scouts addresses the gluten-free issue on its website, saying that "demand has not been great enough to make it economically feasible" to produce specialty cookies such as those that are gluten-free.

At least 3 million Americans have celiac disease, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center.

Randi Albertelli, leader of Raising Our Celiac Kids Long Island, a nonprofit support group for parents, said a few parents in her group also have Girl Scouts who can't eat the cookies.

"If you're selling a Girl Scout cookie and you can't even taste it, it seems backwards," Albertelli said. "Selling their Girl Scout cookies is an integral part of being a Girl Scout."

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