Teenager died from eating an absurdly spicy tortilla chip

Harris Wolobah, a 10th grader from Worcester, Massachusetts, died in September after eating a Paqui Carolina Reaper ultra-spicy tortilla chip. He was participating in the company's "One Chip Challenge" marketing campaign that encouraged eating just one of the chips and then try to go as long as possible without drinking or eating anything else.

According to the autopsy, Wolobah died of cardiac arrest "in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration." The autopsy also revealed that Wolobah went into the challenge with an enlarged heart and congenital defect, "myocardial bridging of the left anterior descending coronary artery."

"It is possible that with significant stimulation of the heart, the muscle beyond the bridge suddenly had abnormal blood flow ('ischemia') and could have been a cause of a severe arrhythmia," Tufts Medical Center chief cardiologist James Udelson said. "There have been reports of acute toxicity with capsaicin causing ischemia of the heart muscle."

Previous to Wolabah's death, at least a dozen students in the US were taken to the hospital after eating the chips, made by Hershey Company subsidiary Amplify Snack Brands.

From the AP:

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.

In its statement Thursday, Paqui cited the chip's "clear and prominent labeling highlighting that the product was not for children or anyone sensitive to spicy foods or with underlying health conditions."

"We saw increased reports of teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings," the statement read. "As a result, while the product adhered to food safety standards, out of an abundance of caution, we worked with retailers to voluntarily remove the product from shelves in September 2023, and the One Chip Challenge has been discontinued."