Maker of Chip in Online Dare Pulls Product After Boy's Death

Harris Wolobah complained of stomach pain after eating the chip
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2023 1:20 PM CDT
Updated Sep 7, 2023 5:00 PM CDT
Mom Says Teen Son Died After Eating Extremely Spicy Chip
A random spicy chip.   (Getty Images / Joe_Potato)
UPDATE Sep 7, 2023 5:00 PM CDT

The company that makes the tortilla chip involved in a social media challenge said Thursday it has asked retailers to pull the product after the death of a 14-year-old boy. Paqui, a subsidiary of the Hershey Co., posted a statement on its website saying the company is "deeply saddened by the death" of the teenager; results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death have not yet been released, the AP reports. Paqui said that though the package says the chip is for adults and should be kept out of the reach of children, "we have seen an increase in teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings." 7-Eleven has removed the chips from its stores.

Sep 6, 2023 1:20 PM CDT

Family members say a Massachusetts teen has died after eating an extremely spicy tortilla chip featured in the viral "One Chip Challenge." A classmate gave the Paqui-branded chip to 14-year-old Harris Wolobah at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester before the boy went to the school nurse complaining of stomach pains, Harris' mother, Lois Wolobah, tells WBTS. The school called Harris' mother, who picked him up. The boy started feeling better at home but fell unconscious while getting ready to head to a basketball team tryout, Lois Wolobah says. Police responded around 4:30pm Friday and found he wasn't breathing, per Spectrum News 1. He was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

A cause of death has not been determined as an autopsy is pending. But Lois Wolobah says the family believes the tortilla chip contributed to her son's death, per WBTS. The chip—sold in a coffin-shaped container—is made from the world's spiciest peppers. The 2023 version is derived from the Carolina Reaper (1.7 million Scoville Heat Units, compared to 2,500-8,000 SHU for a jalapeno) and Naga Viper (1.4 million SHU) peppers. Late last year, paramedics responded to a Georgia high school and treated a boy who'd eaten one of the chips, per KIRO. Local police then issued a warning, citing medical professionals as saying the chip can trigger severe coughing, vomiting, and more serious issues, including "esophageal damage, chest pain, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks."

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Paqui encourages people to test their bravery by eating just one of the extra spicy chips in what's known as the "One Chip Challenge." However, it notes children and those with allergies or sensitivities to spicy food should not attempt it, per the Guardian. It also tells consumers to "seek medical assistance should you experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea." Lois Wolobah says she wants to warn other parents about the dangers involved in the challenge that has gone viral on social media platforms including TikTok. She also says she believes her son should have been taken to a hospital from school. "The pain our family is experiencing is unimaginable," a relative writes on a GoFundMe page, which has raised $29,000 for funeral expenses. (More child death stories.)

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