The chips in question, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, are scarlet-red, exceedingly spicy and enormously popular. Multiple fan pages with thousands of followers have sprung up on Facebook, and a rap video about hot Cheetos – created by children – has nearly 3.5 million views on YouTube.
But some school districts say the chips are too high in calories, salt and fat, and too spicy for most children. Teachers and parents have complained that the artificial coloring has children leaving behind bright red fingerprints in their classrooms and on their clothing. And emergency room doctors say they have seen patients complaining of stomach pain after eating hot Cheetos, and they warn that eating the chips in excess – because of the bright food dye they contain – may cause discolored stool that can lead to unnecessary hospital visits.
In Pasadena, Calif., a principal at an elementary school told the Chicago Tribune, which first reported the story, that the chips would be confiscated from any student who brings them to school. In New Mexico, students at the Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School in Albuquerque were sent home with a letter telling parents not to let their children bring Flamin' Hot Cheetos to school. The letter said that the snack lacks nutritional value and creates a mess for janitors, and that students eat it instead of a healthy lunch. The letter also noted that the chips are shared among students, spreading germs.
Frito-Lay, the company that makes Cheetos, says it does not market the Flamin' Hot Cheetos brand specifically to small children, nor does it sell the snacks directly to schools.
Image: Flamin' Hot Cheetos, via fritolay.com