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Cheetos: The Bane of Educators Everywhere

The Exchange

For many Americans, snack foods like Cheetos are to childhood what fried crisps are to powdered cheese. Two good things that just "go good" together.

But the messy, neon colored snacks — specifically the Flamin' Hot variety — are in hot water with school districts in California and New Mexico, according to ABC News, where officials are trying to ban their sale on school grounds. One Illinois school district has already removed the Flamin' Hots, which are produced by PepsiCo (PEP) subsidiary Frito-Lay, from the vending machines and cafeterias at its facilities, and a school district in Pasadena, Calif. has told parents that administrators will even confiscate the spicy snacks from students that bring them to school.

It's About Health

The problem? Aside from the assault they present to good taste and fresh breath, Flamin' Hot Cheetos are even more unhealthy than regular Cheetos, packing 26 grams of fat and 25% of the daily recommended amount of sodium into each snack size bag. Traditional Cheetos snacks are a bit healthier at 150 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving, though the snack packs do include more than just one serving.

"If children were to bring in snacks that are high in fat, high in calories, that's their choice," Rockford, Ill. School District Interim Superintendent Robert Willis told ABC News. "We're not going to be providing those kinds of foods."

And, yes, the sticky red fingerprints that Flamin' Hot Cheetos eaters often leave behind are part of the problem.

Frito-Lay, for its part, isn't ignoring the ruckus, issuing a statement that it is committed to "responsible and ethical marketing practices," and explaining that it does not market its products to children under 12. "We also do not decide which snacks are available on school campuses," the company said, "and do not sell snack products directly to schools."

This Week in Snack Bans

But the Flamin' Hot Cheetos episode isn't the first time that snack foods have faced opposition from school groups. Five years ago, the state of California began cracking down on the availability of unhealthy foods in its school cafeterias, publishing nutrition standards that all of the snacks available on its campuses must live up to, after banning the sale of soft drinks in grade schools in the late 1990s.

And Massachusetts followed suit in 2011, when health regulators proposed new school lunch rules to address the state's obesity epidemic, focusing on low-fat snacks, whole grain breads and fresh vegetables.

But, ban or no ban, Flamin' Hot Cheetos still have a few (very loyal) supporters out there. Snack on, Y.N. Rich Kids, snack on.

What do you think? Is banning Flamin' Hot Cheetos a smart move or a step too far? Let us know in the comments below.