Even by the nutritional standards of what comes out of your average vending machine, Flaming Hot Cheetos are, apparently, egregious: Each bag contains 26 grams of fat and a quarter of the recommended daily amount of sodium. Now some health experts are calling the Day-Glo orange snack “addictive,” and school districts in California, New Mexico and Illinois are working to get Flaming Hot Cheetos banned from vending machines, reports ABC News.
“If children want to bring in snacks that are high in fat, high in calories, that’s their choice,” one Illinois school superintendent tells ABC. “We’re not going to be providing those kinds of foods.”
And with Flaming Hot Cheetos banned, every kid in that district began begging their mom for Flaming Hot Cheetos—because as we all know, the quickest route to mass popularity for anything is for your school to ban it. (To wit, this crazy YouTube video.)
Indeed, though, the day may come when watching children freely and innocently consume snacks that are the color of safety cones will spark the same incredulous gasps as do those scenes of the Draper kids cruising around without seatbelts (much less car seats) on Mad Men.
Experts are asking whether the arms race in the snack food industry to engineer ever more tasty products has gone too far. “Our brain really is 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, tells ABC.
Between 19 and 50 percent of the food kids eat daily is consumed at school; the National Academy of Sciences estimates kids spend about $2.3 billion on snack food and beverages in schools each year. (With discretionary dough like that, maybe it’s time for an across-the-board cut in allowances.)
All this, coupled with the fact that about one in five U.S. children are obese, is putting increased pressure on schools to watch what kids eat by having foods like Flaming Hot Cheetos banned. The Obama administration is considering new rules that would govern what children could buy from school vending machines, while last month, a group of retired military officials issued a report essentially saying junk food in schools is a national security threat.
No doubt Frito-Lay would strongly object to Cheetos being lumped in with the likes of, say, Alger Hiss, but the group of 300 retired generals and admirals contend that kids are eating about 400 billion excess calories per year thanks to vending machines, which causes them to be overweight and, thus, ineligible for military service. Could having foods like Flaming Hot Cheetos banned could be essnetial to national security.
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics supports their claim, finding that children who lived in states with strong, consistent laws governing what schools can offer in vending machines gained less weight than those who lived in states with lax (or non-existent) regulation, though the impact was relatively modest.
Should government be able to have Flaming Hot Cheetos banned from schools? Tell us in the comments