Massachusetts teenager who died after taking part in spicy chip challenge also had a congenital heart defect, autopsy finds

A Massachusetts teen who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge circulating on social media died from eating a large quantity of chilli pepper extract and also had a congenital heart defect, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Associated Press.

Harris Wolobah, 14, from the city of Worcester, died on September 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 soon after Harris’ death.

The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment on Thursday to the Hershey Co, which owns Paqui.

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

The Paqui chip, sold individually for about $US10 ($A15), 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 the chip was for adult consumption only and should be kept out of the reach of children.

The Paqui One Chip Challenge spicy tortilla chip.
The Paqui One Chip Challenge spicy tortilla chip. Credit: AP

Despite the warning, children have had no problem buying the chips.

There have been reports from across the US of teens who have become 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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