Paqui, the maker of extremely spicy tortilla chips marketed as the “One Chip Challenge,” is voluntarily removing the product from shelves after a mother said her teenage son died as a result of eating a single chip.
The chips were sold individually and their seasonings included two of the hottest peppers in the world: Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper.
Each chip was packaged in a coffin-shaped container with a skull on the front.
Lois Wolobah said NBC10 Boston that her 14-year-old son, Harris Wolobah, ate the chip on Friday and then went to the school nurse with a stomach ache. Wolobah said Harris – a sophomore at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts – passed out at home that afternoon. He was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day, she said.
An autopsy has not yet revealed his cause of death.
A Paqui spokesman told NBC News on Thursday that the company was “deeply saddened by the death of Harris Wolobah and extends our condolences to the family.”
“While the Paqui One Chip Challenge is intended only for adults, we have seen an increase in youth use of the product. We care about all our consumers and have decided to remove the product from shelves,” the spokesperson said. “We are actively working with our retailers and offering refunds on any purchase of our single-serve One Chip Challenge product.”
Until sales of the product stopped, Paqui’s marketing asked people to take part in the challenge by eating a chip, posting a picture of their tongue on social media after the chip turned blue, and then for as long as possible wait to soothe the burn with water or other food.
The challenge has been around in some form since 2016.
“Only the bravest will be able to prove they have faced the Reaper when they show their blue tongue after completing the challenge,” said Brandon Kieffer, Paqui’s former senior brand manager a press release last year.
The product’s label warned that children, pregnant people, people with health problems, people sensitive to spicy foods and people allergic to peppers, nightshades or capsaicin (the component in chili peppers that gives them their spiciness). ) are allergic should avoid the chip. People should seek medical help if they experience difficulty breathing, fainting or persistent nausea after eating the chip, the warning said.
The label also recommends that people who have touched the chip should wash their hands with soap afterwards and avoid touching their eyes or other sensitive areas.
The heat of chili peppers is measured using the Scoville scale, which calculates the units of heat of a given pepper. Carolina Reapers yield around 1.7 million Scoville Heat units and Naga Viper peppers yield around 1.4 million. A jalapeño pepper, on the other hand, has up to 8,500 Scoville heat units.
The biggest health risks of eating a Carolina Reaper include vomiting, burning or numbness in the mouth, according to one Study 2020. Studies have documented it too strong headache from eating extremely hot peppers, as well as a case in which a man vomited so much from eating ghost peppers that he ripped a hole in his esophagus.
Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Wednesday in a post on X that hospitalizations due to the One Chip Challenge have been reported across the country, including among teenagers. Last fall, the Dublin Unified School District was formed in Northern California said NBC Bay Area that several of his students were sent home because of adverse reactions to the product.
“As the investigation into the cause of death of the Worcester teenager continues, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office would like to remind parents to research and discuss the one-chip challenge with their children,” Early wrote.
Parents, he added, should advise their children “not to participate in this activity.”