The company that makes an extra-spicy chip sold under the name One Chip Challenge and which became popular as a challenge on social media withdrew the product from the market after the family of a Massachusetts teenager attributed his death to the challenge.
The cause of Harris Wolobah’s death last Friday has not yet been determined, and as of Thursday a necropsy had not been performed, but the 14-year-old’s family believes the challenge took his life.
Since his death, the Texas-based company Paqui has requested that stores remove its individually packaged fried foods from shelves, a measure that 7-Eleven has already implemented.
The One Chip Challenge sells for about $10 and comes wrapped in a sealed foil bag inside a coffin-shaped cardboard box. The package warns that the fry is made for the “vengeful pleasure of intense itching and pain,” and is aimed at adults, so it should be kept out of the reach of children.
Paqui, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company, posted a statement on its website Thursday that it was “deeply sorry for the death” of Wolobah.
“We have seen an increase in adolescents and other individuals who do not heed these warnings,” the company said. “As a result, although the product continues to meet food safety standards, and out of an abundance of caution, we are actively working with retailers to remove the product from shelves.”
Authorities in Massachusetts have also responded to the death with a warning to parents about the challenge, which is popular on social networks such as TikTok. A large number of people, including children, post videos in which they are seen opening the package, eating the spicy fry and recording their reaction. Some videos show people gagging, coughing and begging for water.
“We encourage parents to have this conversation with their children and advise them not to participate in this activity,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early said in a series of comments about the challenge posted on X, the previously known platform like Twitter. “The company’s warnings highlight that the chips are intended for consumption by adults. Some other people, including teenagers, have been hospitalized in different states of the country due to the challenge.”
Reports have emerged across the country of people falling ill after carrying out the challenge, including three students from a California high school who were hospitalized. Additionally, paramedics were required at a Minnesota school last year after seven students fell ill after doing the challenge.
“Mild symptoms like a burning sensation or tingling of the lips can occur, but there can also be more severe symptoms,” said Lauren Rice, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, noting that this is an opportunity for that parents, coaches and teachers learn about the different challenges that circulate on social networks and that could be dangerous.
“This relates to the ingredients used to make this fry,” he continued. “There are some spices like capsaicin, which is a chemical ingredient that we use in things like pepper spray and they are very strong chemicals and can be very irritating. “Some of the more serious symptoms we see can be things like abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.”
Dr. Peter Chai, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said these fried foods can be dangerous under certain circumstances.
“It is possible that eating these chips with high concentrations of capsaicin could cause death,” he stated. “It would really depend on how much capsaicin an individual was exposed to. In high doses it can lead to lethal dysrhythmia or irreversible damage to the heart.
Police in Worcester, which is located in central Massachusetts and is the state’s second-largest city, said in a statement that officers showed up at the Wolobah family’s home on Friday afternoon and found him “unconscious and not breathing.” ”. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Wolobah’s family and friends believe the frying was the cause of her death, and her family called for its sale to be banned.
“As we see it, the frying is responsible for what happened, because he was a healthy young man,” said Douglas Hill, who runs the basketball league Wolobah played in, describing him as a quiet teenager whose family came to United States from Liberia.
“The conversation right now is about frying, but there will be more challenges coming up and we want to make sure kids know not to participate in something that could put them in danger,” added Douglas, who organized a basketball event for Saturday with the order to pay tribute to the teenager. A vigil is also planned for Friday.
There is no question why anyone would eat these fritters.
In addition to the name, One Chip Challenge, the package states the “rules of the challenge,” which encourages the consumer to eat the entire chip, “last as long as possible without drinking or eating anything,” and post their reaction on social media. The packet also asks how long someone can last, on a scale from one minute to one hour.
On the back of the package consumers are warned not to consume the contents if they are “sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to chili peppers, nightshades or capsaicin, are pregnant or have a medical condition.” It also indicates that people should wash their hands after touching the fry and “seek medical assistance in case of experiencing difficulty breathing, fainting or prolonged nausea.”