Tragic Death of Massachusetts Teen Linked to Spicy Chip Social Media Challenge

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According to autopsy findings, a Massachusetts teenager who took part in a social-media challenge that required users to eat a spicy tortilla chip died after consuming a large amount of chile extract. He also had a congenital defect.

Harris Wolobah from Worcester died on September 1, 2023, after eating the chips manufactured by Paqui. Paqui is a Texas-based Hershey Co. subsidiary.

According to the autopsy of the Chief Office of the Medical Examiner, Wolobah died of a cardiopulmonary arrest after consuming a food substance containing high capsaicin.

Capsaicin gives chili peppers their heat.

Consuming capsaicin can cause serious health issues such as chest pain, palpitations, and heart attacks. Capsaicin consumption in large amounts can cause vomiting, which can be life-threatening. People should be cautious when eating foods or products containing capsaicin,” wrote her in an article on Poison.org about the Paqui Challenge.

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Paqui removed the chips from shelves shortly after Wolobah died.

The autopsy revealed that Harris also had an enlarged left heart and a congenital condition described as “myocardial bridge of the left anterior-descending coronary artery.”

Wolobah was killed after taking part in Paqui’s “One Chip Challenge,” which is a marketing campaign. The challenge involves eating one spicy tortilla chip with Carolina Reaper or Naga Viper chilies and waiting as long as possible before consuming anything else.

Bradford Holland, M.D. is an otolaryngologist from Central Texas who stated, “Any time you test the body at its maximum, bad stuff can happen.”

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Paqui’s product is clearly labeled as not suitable for children and anyone who has a sensitivity to spicy food.

The company stated at the time, “while the Pacqui One Chip Challenge was intended for adults, we have seen a rise in the usage of this product by teens.”

The chip challenge is one of many that involve spicy foods. Other challenges include eating hot sauce-drenched chicken wings and chili pepper competitions.