In 1976, Richard Montanez was a janitor at a Frito-Lay factory. He didn’t speak much English and didn’t have a high school diploma. Now, he’s known as one of the most influential Hispanics in corporate America. How did this happen?

A Cheeto machine broke. The Cheetos came out cheese-less that day. Richard took them home, added some chile powder, and BAM—Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were born.

It’s the perfect rags to riches tale, but I wasn’t aware of it until recently. Yes, I ate Hot Cheetos growing up, but it wasn’t because of their inspiring backstory—it was because of the taste and the way Hot Cheetos brought people together in tears of joy and spiciness.

flamin hot cheetos

Photo by Jocelyn Hsu

These merry moments of tearful camaraderie may be coming to an end, though. Over the last few years, schools have been banning Hot Cheetos. Why?

  • They’re addictive.
  • They have poor nutritional value.
  • Kids are eating more than the recommended portions.

    flamin hot cheetos

    Photo by Elizabeth Layman

  • Kids are sharing them with each other, which transfers germs.
  • They sometimes inspire trips to the Emergency Room due to red stool (yikes) and temporary chest pains.
  • They’re messy—too many red fingerprints.

    flamin hot cheetos

    Photo by Elizabeth Layman

These reasons, though valid, seem like they also apply to many other snacks. Like any other hot food, it’s a good idea to be smart when you eat Hot Cheetos. Parents probably shouldn’t be feeding them to their infants, and kids’ family members should be teaching them to eat the snacks in a way that is both fun and mindful of their health. Again, this is true about many snacks, so, why is Chester Cheetah getting all the heat?

I can’t say.

One thing is for sure, though. The kids aren’t letting this ban get the best of them. At home, they’re uploading videos on Youtube of Hot Cheeto eating contests. At school, too, they’re continuing to eat the red-hot snacks. Rita Exposito, principal of Jackson Elementary School in Pasadena, California, says, “We don’t encourage other chips, but if we see Hot Cheetos, we confiscate them—sometimes after the child has already eaten most of them.”

I understand the health concerns, but it’d be hard for an old fan like me to see these fiery snacks made of chile powder and the American Dream go.

What do you think?