Nutrition • Jul 06, 2010

Do your kids eat Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are an up-and-coming favorite junk food among kids. These spicy hot cheese-flavored snacks made by Frito-Lay are so popular that they have been specifically banned by some schools in California. Food preference experts have theorized that eating such spicy-hot foods causes the brain to release opiate-like chemicals in the brain. So kids eat them and just can’t seem to stop eating them. But what happens when you eat too many? You might just end up in the ER.

Over the past few months, we have seen increasing numbers of patients in our ERs with concern for blood in their stool. A closer discussion with the patient reveals that they have been eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Stool tests are negative for blood. The stool itself, however, has a bright red/orange color. I find it unfortunate that food labeling does not discuss the possibility of discolored stool, as this is causing unnecessary parental concern and emergency medical care.

Other food products can also cause discolored stool, including many things with red dye. A colleague of mine had a patient with red stool that turned out to be the result of attending a princess birthday party and ingesting a lot of pink icing. But Flamin’ Hot Cheetos seem to be the most frequent offender.

So how do parents feel about poop that is red, orange, or otherwise discolored? Would you eat a product if you knew this would be a possible outcome? Do you care what your kids’ poop looks like?