When Frito Lay describes its Flamin Hot Cheetos as "dangerously cheesy," apparently it's not joking. The addictive snack is landing some overindulgent kids in the ER.
ER doctors say they're seeing kids (and some adults) coming in with gastritis, an inflamed stomach lining and other bad tummy troubles after eating bags of spicy snack foods.
Doctors say these very spicy snacks can change the pH balance in the stomach, making it painfully acidic.
Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, told ABC News she sees between five and six cases of children with gastritis daily.
"We have a population who loves to eat the hot spicy, not real foods, and they come in with these real complaints," she said. "[The kids are being] set up for ulcerations, erosions and ... peptic ulcer disease."
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told ABC that he believes it is the flavoring coating the chips and snacks that might be causing the stomach pH to change, rather than just the spiciness. He said he hasn't seen people coming in doubled over from eating too much spicy salsa, for example.
"I've seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain," Glatter told ABC. Not exactly the "unique combination of great taste and good fun" Flamin' Hot Cheetos maker Frito Lay promises.
Some school districts (including L.A. Unified) have actually banned the sale on campuses of Flamin' Hot Cheetos, which have a high fat and sodium content and no nutritional value. (They come in Xxtra Flamin Hot, too.)
It's hard to pin down from the ingredients list what makes Flamin Hot Cheetos so "dangerously" hot. There is onion powder, garlic powder and MSG, but beyond that there is only vague "natural flavor." Natural battery acid, perhaps?
Frito Lay says it is "committed to responsible and ethical practices, which includes not marketing our products to children age 12 and under."
Which is why, of course, every bag of the neon-red treat features a cartoon cheetah wearing cool shades and sneakers and breathing fire.
Glatter recommends that parents keep an eye on their children so they don't eat too many spicy snacks, saying something along the lines of, "Don't eat too much of that or you'll get a stomachache."
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"Parents should be aware of this. These products are not healthy and some children seem to become addicted," Glatter told ABC.
For God's sake, stop the kids before they Flamin Hot CheetOD.
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