There is something wrong with Hot Cheetos. I knew this the first time I finished a bag. When the dust settled and my asteroid red fingers finally rested, I was left with a curious burn in the pit of my stomach – unlike anything I had felt before. Initially, I thought I might have some kind of food borne illness, and then I remembered I had just eaten a king size bag of artificial corn snacks made with an unknown proprietary spice blend. So, that’s when I did what any responsible, educated fifteen year old would do – I kept eating them. I ate so many that I wasn’t even enjoying the physical chips themselves – I craved the burn. And, unfortunately, it looks like this craving is landing kids in the hospital all over the country.
According to Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, around five to six cases of children with gastritis are reported PER DAY at her clinic from patients who have eaten too many Hot Cheetos or similar spicy snacks. A lot of people are quick to blame the heat, claiming that the strong spicy flavor is what causes irritation in the stomach lining; however, doctors are not seeing children who have just consumed spicy peppers or salsa. These cases all have one thing in common: processed flavoring.
In 2012, several schools in New Mexico, California and Illinois banned all spicy snacks due to their complete lack of nutrition, even citing evidence that these snacks ignite a response in the brain that is dangerously similar to what is observed in people who are plagued with substance abuse. If all this isn’t bad enough, it turns out the red dye used in Cheetos, known chemically as Red 40 Lake, is SO TOXIC that it turned children’s feces red, leading their parents to believe they were pooping blood. I don’t know what’s worse – the idea that Hot Cheetos are responsible for a serious medical misdiagnosis, or that most of the world has ingested a substance called Red 40 Lake. Ever wonder why no matter how many times you wash your hands after a bag of Flaming Hots, you just can’t get that red hue off your finger tips?
Well you can thank the powers of Red 40 Lake. Red 40 Lake sounds like a government conspiracy in the remote Nevada desert. Red 40 Lake sounds like a jam band featuring six year olds playing the recorder. Red 40 Lake sounds like what the football players say before the play starts. The only thing it doesn’t sound like…is something we should be eating.
Recently, 17 year old Rene Craighead from Memphis developed gallbladder issues due to eating these stomach exploding corn chips. She admits to eating four to five extra spicy large sized bags PER WEEK. Which means I suddenly feel really good about the amount of choco tacos I consumed last night. Sadly, the stomach issues got so bad that she was taken to the emergency room and had to receive emergency gall bladder surgery. While the reality of these dangerous snacks is quite evident both in clinical studies and real life consequences, we continue to eat them. Why? Because they’re so damn good.