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Massachusetts teenager had cardiac arrest after eating one of spiciest crisps in world in viral challenge

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Massachusetts teenager had cardiac arrest after eating one of spiciest crisps in world in viral challenge

A Massachusetts teenager died from a cardiac arrest after taking part in a challenge where he ate what was believed to be one of the spiciest crisps in the world.

Harris Wolobah, 14, from Worcester, died on 1 September last year after eating a Paqui chip as part of the manufacturer’s One Chip Challenge.

The challenge, popular on social media, involved eating supposedly one of the spiciest tortilla chips in the world, then bearing the heat for as long as possible before eating or drinking something else for relief.

It came individually wrapped and Paqui’s website previously said it is made from two of the hottest chilli peppers in the world – the Carolina Reaper and Scorpion.

An autopsy concluded the teenager died from a cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration”. Capsaicin is the component that gives chili peppers their heat.

A Paqui tortilla chip, which Harris Wolobah ate before subsequently having a heart attack. Pic: AP
Image:
Paqui has discontinued the One Chip Challenge after multiple reports of children being hospitalised. Pic: AP


But the Chief Office of the Medical Examiner also found Harris had an enlarged heart and myocardial bridging, where a major artery runs inside of the heart muscle instead of on its surface.

In a statement after the autopsy was released, Paqui said they were “deeply saddened” by the teen’s death, and “extend our condolences to his family and friends”.

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The Texas-based manufacturer added that because of the incident and others where teenagers were taken to hospital, they had stopped selling the spicy chip.

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“While the product adhered to food safety standards, out of an abundance of caution, we worked with retailers to voluntarily remove the product from shelves in September 2023, and the One Chip Challenge has been discontinued,” they said.

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Harris’s mother Lois Walobah told NBC10 Boston last year she was called to the school by a nurse and her son had told him a classmate gave him the chip, leaving him with a bad stomach ache.

They went home but later that afternoon his brother yelled Harris had passed out, she said.

He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

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