May 22nd, 2024

Teen who ate spicy chip died of high chile consumption and had a heart defect, autopsy says

By Steve Leblanc, Kathy Mccormack And Michael Casey, The Associated Press on May 16, 2024.

FILE - A Paqui One Chip Challenge chip is displayed in Boston, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. A medical examiner says a Massachusetts teen who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge died from ingesting a substance “with a high capsaicin concentration,” according to autopsy results The Associated Press obtained late Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Capsaicin is a chili pepper extract. Harris Wolobah died on Sept. 1, 2023, after eating the chip. (AP Photo/Steve LeBlanc, File)

BOSTON (AP) – A Massachusetts teen who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge on social media died from eating a large quantity of chile pepper extract and also had a congenital heart defect, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press.

Harris Wolobah, a 10th grader from the city of Worcester, died on Sept. 1, 2023, after eating the chip manufactured by Paqui. The cause of death was listed as cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration,” according to the autopsy from the Chief Office of the Medical Examiner.

Paqui, pulled the product from store shelves shortly after Harris’ death. The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment Thursday to the Hershey Co., which owns Paqui.

The cause of death was determined on Feb. 27, and the death certificate was released to the city clerk’s office on March 5, according to Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The Paqui chip, sold individually for about $10, came wrapped in foil in a coffin-shaped box containing the warning that it was intended for the “vengeful pleasure of intense heat and pain.” The warning noted that the chip was for adult consumption only, and should be kept out of the reach of children.

Despite the warning, children have had no problem buying the chips. There have been reports from around the country of teens who have gotten sick after taking part in the chip-eating challenge, including three California high school students who were sent to a hospital. Paramedics were called to a Minnesota school in 2022 when seven students fell ill after taking part in the challenge.

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