Flamin' Hot Cheetos Under Fire: Schools Seek to Ban the Spicy "Crack" Snack

A bowl of Flamin Hot Cheetos
A bowl of Flamin Hot Cheetos

School districts in California, New Mexico and Illinois are trying to ban the popular snack "food" Flamin' Hot Cheetos because they say it is a health hazard to students. That includes elementary schools in Pasadena -- the principal of Andrew Jackson Elementary there told KTLA News that if students are caught bringing Flamin' Hot Cheetos to school, the snacks will be confiscated. (And "stored" in the teachers' lounge?)

What's the beef? Each snack-size bag contains 26 grams of fat and a quarter of the amount of sodium recommended for an entire day. On top of the enticing artificial coloring and flavoring, some experts say that the high fat and salt content makes the Cheetos "hyperpalatable," meaning highly addictive. Kid crack, in other words.

"Our brain is really hardwired to find things like fat and salt really rewarding and now we have foods that have them in such high levels that it can trigger an addictive process," Ashley Gearhardt, a clinical psychologist at the University of Michigan, told ABC News.

Frito Lay, which makes and sells Cheetos, has responded to the controversy by claiming in a statement that it does not market its products to children ages 12 and under. "We also do not decide which snacks are available on school campuses and do not sell snack products directly to schools," the company said. Seriously, what kid would find spicy day-glo red Cheetos appealing, especially packaged in a brightly colored bag featuring a cartoon cheetah wearing sneakers and shades? That's clearly a snack for a sophisticated adult palate.

Schools are also complaining that, aside from the awful "nutritional" value, kids are leaving red fingerprints everywhere, creating a stinky mess for janitors.

Even some doctors are taking issue with Flamin' Hot Cheetos because they say the salty snack is leading to unnecessary emergency room visits. And now we come to the "what's grosser than gross?" portion of the blog post.

Because the spicy treat contains tons of red food dye, it can turn the stools of people who eat large quantities red or orange. Parents and kids are apparently mistakenly assuming that it is a sign of blood in the stool, leading to panicked trips to the hospital, CBS News reports. (Red velvet cake can also cause red stool, just FYI.)

But, pediatrician Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann told CBS News that you'd have to eat quite a bit of the vermillion vittles to change your stool color.

"Even though we might eat some foods with red food dye in them regularly, our stool doesn't usually become discolored unless you eat huge amounts of it," Berchelmann said. "Flamin' Hot Cheetos is one food that people will eat enormous amounts of and will see a change in their stool."

But red stool isn't the only problem that is sending kids who eat Flamin' Hot Cheetos to the ER. The red peppers and spice in the junk food can lead to really bad stomachaches and heartburn when eaten in excess, doctors say.

The red dye-addled kids don't care.

What a flamin' hot mess.


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