It’s not often that a snack food so takes hold of the junior high crowd’s collective conscious like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have. Not only are the radioactively-colored, preservative-and-salt-filled curls are a staple on my bus route and in school yards, they’ve inspired a widely-viewed mash note about them on YouTube. But unfortunately for the teenage devotees of this terribly unhealthy snack, The Man has finally caught on, and it wants to harsh their mellow by banning them. Which is probably a good idea, because they are seriously junk.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are actually older than most of their fans–they were first invented 20 years ago by a janitor with a good idea. But in the last few years, they’ve reached new heights of popularity. Which, according to ABC, has schools across the country a little freaked out. Some have already started to pull them from vending machines. From ABC:
School districts in California and New Mexico are trying to ban the popular snack food Flamin’ Hot Cheetos because they say it is a health hazard to students…
One school district in Illinois, which used to sell about 150,000 bags each year, has already taken the snack off its menu.
Which makes sense, when you look at their nutritional information:
If that label is too full of food science lingo, allow me to decode. In a one-ounce bag (about 21 Cheetos, which is way fewer than most kids actually eat), there are 250mg of sodium, or about 10-15% of the amount a kid should ostensibly eat in a day. But again, if a kid is eating from a larger bag and manages to down, say, about 5 ounces, she’s already at half the amount of sodium she should be eating. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos also contain a whole suite of questionable food colorings, including Yellow 5 and Red 40 Lake, a potential carcinogen that has been found to cause hyperactivity in children.
Then there’s the troubling presence of all the preservatives and the MSG. The fourth ingredient in the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ secret flavoring ingredient–after maltodextrin, which is a filler, salt, and sugar–is MSG. The flavoring agent not only has powerful neurological effects that can lead to addiction (seriously), it’s also been linked to excessive weight gain. Which means really, any way you slice it, it’s probably not something your kid should be able to buy in school and eat for hours at a time.
News of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos ban in schools has already spread to Facebook, where, like a game of telephone, the message has been a little distorted. Young consumers seem to think it’s going to be a national ban–and it’s got them in a tizzy.
“I ENJOY EATING FLAMIN HOT PLEASE DONT BAND THEM OFF THE SHELFS,” one fan implored.
Fortunately for her, that seems pretty unlikely. But if she’s a student in a school that cares about the health of its students, she may be out of luck.
Images by Flickr user bingbing and Cheetos