In a recent turn of events, the company responsible for the infamous “One Chip Challenge” is taking swift action to address safety concerns after a Massachusetts teenager’s tragic passing following participation in the viral social media challenge.
Paqui LLC, the maker of the scorching-hot snack, has asked retailers to withdraw the product from store shelves. In a statement issued Thursday, the company, based in Austin, Texas, emphasized the chip’s intended audience, with clear labeling indicating it’s strictly for adults.
The warning also cautions against consumption for those sensitive to spicy foods, individuals with food allergies, pregnant women, or those with underlying health conditions.
As a subsidiary of Hershey, Paqui LLC has observed an unsettling rise in the number of teenagers engaging in the challenge, often disregarding these vital safety guidelines. In response, the company is choosing to err on the side of caution by removing the product from stores while offering refunds for the single-serve chip, which contains the Carolina Reaper and the Naga Viper pepper, one of the world’s hottest peppers.
The Paqui “One Chip Challenge” has gained notoriety for testing individuals’ mettle by challenging them to withstand the fiery heat without reaching for a soothing beverage or any other food. The company even poses the daring question to potential buyers, “How long can you last before you spiral out?”
However, what appeared to be a fun test of endurance became a tragedy when 14-year-old Harris Wolobah, a sophomore at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, consumed one of these chips and subsequently fell ill. Though he initially felt better after being picked up by relatives, he later lost consciousness. Despite being rushed to a hospital, he lost his life.
BREAKING: Massachusetts teen dies after taking part in social media’s viral spicy “One Chip Challenge” pic.twitter.com/yGwZlFiEs6
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) September 5, 2023
The state medical examiner’s office is actively investigating Wolobah’s cause of death. While definitive answers may take weeks to ascertain, his family has pointed fingers at the intensely spicy chips as the incident has sparked a broader conversation about the risks associated with the “One Chip Challenge.”
Many have taken to social media to share their own encounters with the chip, which retails for approximately $10 and arrives individually wrapped in foil within a coffin-shaped box. The packaging, designed to be unsettling, warns of the chip’s “vengeful pleasure of intense heat and pain,” specifies its intended adult audience, and underscores the need to keep it out of children’s reach.
Despite these stern warnings, reports have surfaced from across the nation of minors falling ill after partaking in the challenge. In one incident, three students from a California high school were rushed to the hospital. In another, paramedics were called to a Minnesota school when seven students experienced adverse effects after taking part in the challenge.
The issue goes beyond those participating in the challenge. Forest Park Elementary School reported that six children required medical attention after coming into contact with the chip.
Amid the situation, parents are demanding answers, with one asking, “The box says keep out of the hands of children. It says it’s for adult consumption only. Why are y’all selling it to a 12-year-old child?”