MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A health warning tonight for parents: Doctors say popular spicy snacks are making many kids sick.
A doctor at LeBohneur Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told WHBQ that more kids have been checking in with stomach pain.
They believe the spicy snacks are the main contributor, and they are encouraging parents to know what their kids are eating.
"There's a YouTube video called 'Hot Cheetos and Takis,'" said Dr. Cary Cavender.
The video was made by elementary school kids and has more than 16 million views on YouTube.
The music video is from 2012; it helped to skyrocket the popularity of spicy snacks.
“We are seeing a bunch of kids in clinic with tummy pain. That's about our first question now: Are you addicted to Hot Cheetos and Takis? Hot chips?” Cavender said.
Cavender is a specialist at LeBohneur Children’s Hospital and said he is seeing more toddlers to teens with stomach pain.
“Probably 100 to 150 patients a month, between our group,” he said. Many of the young patients have inflammation and stomach pain, such as gastritis.
“A lot of them have to get put on medication to block acid because they have got actual inflammation in there,” Cavender said.
Rene Atkins said her 17-year-old daughter was addicted to the chips.
“Four bags a week,” said Atkins, whose daughter is also named Rene.
Atkins said her daughter experienced the problems firsthand.
“My daughter had to get her gallbladder removed for eating those hot chips,” she said.
Cavender told WHBQ that it's hard to connect the chips directly to that surgery, but they're causing issues, in large part due to quantity.
“Generally, kids eat the whole bag, so they don't pay attention to that,” said Dr. Cavender.
The expert says whatever the brand, eat spicy snacks on rare occasions.
The stomach pain “will disappear if they quit taking on as much heat in their diet,” Cavender said.
Atkins said she is going to watch her daughter's – and other neighborhood kids' – consumption closely.
“Even little kids coming down the street, if I see you with some hot Cheetos, some hot fries, some hot Takis, I am taking it,” she said.
The doctor said many of the patients’ parents had no idea how many bags their kids are eating.
One reason: There are dealers at school who sell little Ziploc bags of the snacks.
If your child is having stomach pain, consider going to the hospital, but the cause may not be chips.
If they are having issues for days, have them drink water, eat a balanced diet and monitor the pain.
Fritos sent WHBQ a statement regarding the recent advice from doctors:
“At Frito-Lay, we aim to delight our consumers and food safety is always our number one priority. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos meet all applicable food safety regulations, as well as our rigorous quality standards. That said, we realize some consumers may be more sensitive to spicy foods than others and may choose to moderate consumption or avoid spicier snacks due to personal preference. When consumers have questions or concerns about any of our products, we are available to answer their questions through our dedicated Consumer Relations team.”
Cox Media Group