Are Flamin' Hot Cheetos Safe for Kids?

Flamin' Hot Cheetos are super-popular with spice-loving kids. But should parents be worried about reports that the snack is sending people to the emergency room?

Wicker Basket of Cheetos on Wooden Table
Photo: Kelvin Wong/Shutterstock

As bright in color as they are spicy, Flamin' Hot Cheetos are either loved or hated by kids. And kids who love Flamin' Hot Cheetos, really love them. And often, so do parents. So much so, it's easy to ignore the recommended serving size on the package and opt for most of the bag.

Back in July, a Memphis mother blamed hot snacks like Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Takis for her daughter's gallbladder-removal surgery. The 17-year-old, complaining of stomach pain, reportedly estimated eating four full-size bags of hot snacks per week.

More recently, rapper Lil Xan linked his hospital visit with chowing down on too many of the spicy snacks, and doctors warn that Flamin' Hot Cheetos may also aggravate heartburn and acid reflux.

Doctors are also blaming Flamin' Hot Cheetos for unnecessary emergency room visits. Worried parents and children report blood in their stools, but in fact, the discoloration is likely caused by the amount of coloring in the snack. Much like eating beets, consuming too many Flamin' Hot Cheetos can cause stools to look red.

So are the snacks to blame? A spokesperson for Frito-Lay reportedly said, "At Frito-Lay, food safety is always our number one priority, and our snacks meet all applicable food safety regulations as well as our rigorous quality standards. Some consumers may be more sensitive to spicy foods than others and may choose to avoid spicier snacks due to personal preference."

Pediatrician Natalie Digate Muth says, "The short answer is that Hot Cheetos are not a healthy snack and I don't recommend consuming them in any amount. The chips contain MSG and a lot of artificial flavors and colors which can be detrimental to kids' health." She continues, "It's likely to be something in the chips' seasoning that contributes to the serious stomach problems we often see in teens who eat a lot of these chips."

If it's the "burn" that your kids are after, Dr. Muth recommends turning to naturally spicy foods like hot peppers incorporated into foods. Other ideas include stirring a little sriracha sauce into hummus or topping tacos with a splash of Cholula or Tabasco sauce.

So the consensus on Flamin' Hot Cheetos? Eat all processed foods, including the hot ones, in moderation. Always follow the suggested serving size, and for the most part, turn to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for healthy snack options.

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