BY CLARA BENITEZ, KGBT
HARLINGEN, Texas (CIRCA via KGBT) — It's the hottest snack around, with snack shacks on every corner selling what people love the most.
“You can't stop eating them,” said Emanuel Garza, owner of Chicky-Mikis.
Garza says his snack shack goes through about 300 bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos in a week.
“Let's say in 10 orders, eight of the orders have Hot Cheetos with cheese,” Garza said.
It's a clear obsession with no age limit.
At Moran's Pizzeria in Mercedes, Texas, the popular-demand snack has turned one of the eatery's pies into a best seller.
“Everyone knows us basically because of the Hot Cheetos pizza and taco pizza,” manager Samuel Moran said. “It was actually a customer's idea. He wanted to put Hot Cheetos on top of a pepperoni pizza and from there, a customer saw it. At that moment, we decided to create a Hot Cheetos pizza.”
The Hot Cheetos pizza mimics the popular Hot Cheetos with cheese that can be found practically anywhere in the Rio Grande Valley.
The pizza is topped off with Hot Cheetos crumbles, finishing it off with nacho cheese and jalapenos.
“It has become one of our most popular. Actually, it's the top seller at the moment,” Moran said.
But the popular red chips are landing kids in the emergency room.
“The patient goes to the ER from bleeding from both sides and abdominal pain. It’s most likely peptic ulcer diseases, and that comes with eating mostly spicy food,” said Dr. Nelson Spinetti, a pediatric gastroenterologist in Edinburg, Texas.
Spinetti says his office sees at least 15 patients per day related to Hot Cheetos and other spicy foods.
“You can have esophagitis, you can have gastritis" among other complications, Spinetti said. "Sometimes you can have colitis ... too, so it's all the way until we say the irritant gets out of the (system) after pooping.”
Patients are ranging 3 to 7 years old, with gastritis, ulcers and in rare cases, internal bleeding.
“It’s designed to make you addicted from very young in life, so they can continue profit,” Spinetti said.
According to Spinetti, the spiciness of the chip is addicting, releasing natural endorphins.
“If you have an irritation or any type of pain, then you start to develop hormones to control pain that we call endorphins that become addictive, too,” said Spinetti said.
Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, a medicinal chemist at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, said the ingredients in Hot Cheetos are damaging people's insides.
“The bottom line is that your acidity in your stomach will be increased abruptly,” Bandyopadhyay said.
Bandyopadhyay said piperine is the substance that makes food hot. When looking at the ingredients of Hot Cheetos, Bandyopadhyay could not find piperine or any other ingredients that make food hot.
“When I checked the ingredients, I did not see piperine, and I’m pretty sure piperine is responsible that causes the hotness, the flaming hot stuff,” he said.
One of the ingredients found is natural and artificial flavors, which federal laws allow companies to use to avoid listing all the ingredients, so that recipe theft can be prevented.
Bandyopadhyay says if you can’t stop eating Hot Cheetos, reduce your intake.
“Maybe once in a month, twice in a month you are good, but don't take too much,” he said.
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