The Paqui One Chip Challenge is an incredibly hot chip coated with California Reaper and Naga Viper peppers — two of the hottest peppers in the world.
The Paqui One Chip Challenge is a simple concept. The chip is dusted with incredibly hot Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper pepper dust. The challenge, as put forth by Paqui, is to eat the extra large, spicy chip and see how long you can go without consuming other food and water.
Despite the chip’s label warning that this challenge is for adults only, however, many children have attempted it as it became a social media phenomenon. Now, the product is being pulled from shelves amid an ongoing investigation into the death of a Massachusetts teenager who took on the challenge.
As the Associated Press reported, 14-year-old Harris Wolobah passed away on Sept. 1, 2023, after ingesting the spicy chip. Wolobah went to the school nurse that day with a bad stomach ache. That afternoon, he passed out at home and paramedics were called. He died later the same day in the hospital.
Although it will take weeks for an autopsy to determine his cause of death, his mother blames the Paqui One Chip Challenge — and Paqui themselves have asked retailers to stop selling the product.
The chip, which costs $10, comes in a coffin-shaped box with several warnings on it, including one that says the chip is made for the “vengeful pleasure of intense heat and pain” and is intended for adults only. But all across the country, children have been able to get their hands on the violently hot chip, and several have been hospitalized as a result.
This is the first time, however, that anyone’s death has been attributed to the Paqui One Chip Challenge.
“People were telling me Harris passed away. I was just angry,” said Wolobah’s schoolmate David Adjer. “I don’t think we should have this chip anymore. If someone dies from this chip, you should take… the chip off the shelves because we don’t need any more accidents like this.”
A 2020 study examined a case where a 15-year-old student — and athlete, like Wolobah — ingested a Carolina Reaper pepper and later developed cardiovascular complications. Though only a case study, the authors suggested this reaction may not be unique.
The AP spoke with several adults who attempted the challenge as well to gauge their reactions to the level of spice in the chip.
Joaquin Diaz, a 31-year-old construction worker from the Bronx, said he’s an avid lover of spicy food and became curious about the challenge when he came across it on social media a few weeks ago.
“It hurt, I’m not gonna lie. I was actually a little nervous,” he said. And while the initial experience was painful, Diaz said he wasn’t expecting the horrible stomach pains and diarrhea he experienced the next day.
Another challenge-taker, 56-year-old Roger Trier, told the AP that he has trained for more than 20 years to build up his spice tolerance.
“Most people you see on social media — with any challenges — don’t understand the consequences,” he said, adding that he doesn’t believe people under the age of 18 should attempt spicy challenges such as this because they might not know how to handle the intense reactions the food can cause. Peer pressure also plays a role, he said, and it can make kids take on risks they don’t fully understand.
In a statement, Paqui said it was “deeply saddened by the death” of Harris Wolobah.
“We have seen an increase in teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings,” as a statement on the webpage for the One Chip Challenge reads. “As a result, while the product continues to adhere to food safety standards, out of an abundance of caution, we are actively working with our retailers to remove the product from shelves.”
A GoFundMe page was set up by Wolobah’s family to alleviate the financial burden of organizing the funeral. The page describes Wolobah as “a light that lit up the room with his presence and subtle charm. He was an intelligent, quirky and incredibly talented young man who loved video games and playing basketball!”
A vigil was held in Harris Wolobah’s honor on Sept. 8, 2023, with a crowd of roughly 100 people comprised of Wolobah’s friends, family, and teammates. His mother, Lois, was completely heartbroken as she approached a photo of her son, calling out his name and nearly collapsing. Family members had to hold her up while one relative addressed the crowd.
“I look around and see a community bond together by candlelight, by love and by the memory of our brother, of our son, of our nephew Harris,” his cousin Valerie Richardson said. “Harris had this gift for bringing people together. I can’t think of a better way to honor him than what we are doing right here, right now.”