School districts in California, New Mexico and Illinois have reportedly publicized their intention to ban “Flamin’ Hot” Cheetos® snacks from campus vending machines and lunches over concerns about the product’s nutritional content. According to media reports, the schools in question have described the snack item as “hyperpalatable” with each bag containing 26 grams of fat and one-quarter of the recommended daily amount of sodium. As University of Michigan clinical psychologist Ashley Gearhardt further explained, “Our brain is really 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.”
“It’s something that has been engineered so that it is fattier and saltier and more novel to the point where our body, brain and pleasure centers react to it more strongly than if we were eating, say, a handful of nuts,” Gearhardt said.
“Going along with that, we are seeing those classic signs of addiction, the cravings and loss of control and preoccupation with it.”
Meanwhile, Frito-Lay has reiterated its children’s marketing guidelines in its response to school complaints about the product, which has been on the market since the 1990s. “Frito-Lay is committed to responsible and ethical marketing practices, which includes not marketing our products to children ages 12 and under,” said the company in a statement. “We also do not decide which snacks are available on school campuses and do not sell snack products directly to schools.” See The Chicago Tribune, October 11, 2012; ABC News, October 16, 2012; The Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2012.