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Killed by spicy chip challenge: Autopsy reveals too much chili extract is what led to Massachusetts teen’s death

The Massachusetts teenager who died after participating in a spicy tortilla chip challenge was killed by consuming too much chili pepper extract, in conjunction with a congenital heart defect.

Year 10 student Harris Wolobah died at the very beginning of the school year after eating a Paqui brand potato chip, which subsequently removed the product from the shelves.

In a memo from the Worcester City Medical Examiner’s Office, Wolobah’s cause of death is listed as cardiopulmonary arrest (i.e. heart attack) “in connection with recent ingestion of ‘a food substance with a high concentration of capsaicin’.

Capsaicin is what gives chili peppers their often extreme heat.

Harris Wolobah, 14, died hours after eating a spicy tortilla as part of the

Harris Wolobah, 14, died hours after eating a spicy tortilla as part of the “One Chip Challenge,” a social media trend that has gained billions of views on TikTok. The Massachusetts teenager was a talented athlete described by his family as “a light that lit up the room.”

The 2023 edition of the “One Chip Challenges” features a tortilla chip flavored with two of the hottest peppers possible, California Reaper Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper.  The California Reaper is ranked as the hottest pepper in the world

The 2023 edition of the “One Chip Challenges” features a tortilla chip flavored with two of the hottest peppers possible, California Reaper Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper. The California Reaper is ranked as the hottest pepper in the world

The autopsy also revealed that the teen suffered from cardiomegaly – an enlargement of the heart – as well as a congenital anomaly described as “myocardial bridging of the left anterior descending coronary artery.”

The defect is described as having an artery that runs through the heart muscle instead of lying on the surface of the heart.

Paqui, which is owned by the Hershey Company, pulled the chips from stores after Wolobah’s untimely death, but previously sold them for about $10 apiece.

The black pepper chip was wrapped in foil in a coffin-shaped box that contained a warning about the severity of the chip’s “heat and pain.”

Despite the warning that the chip was not intended for children, younger consumers had no problem getting their hands on the product.

Other teens across the country also reportedly became ill after consuming the chip, including three California teens who were taken to the hospital.

The black piece of death was sprinkled with Carolina Reaper pepper and Naga Viper pepper and became part of the “One Chip Challenge”, which went viral on social media.

Paqui, the chip's maker, encouraged people to test their physical limits.  Those who can endure the burning pain for up to an hour without food or drink earn the title

Paqui, the chip’s maker, encouraged people to test their physical limits. Those who can endure the burning pain for up to an hour without food or drink earn the title “Apex Predator”.

On September 1 last year, the boy’s mother was called to his school when Harris complained of a stomach ache. He had eaten the spicy chip after a classmate gave it to him.

The young teen felt better after returning home, but he passed out at 4:30 p.m. while getting ready to leave for basketball tryouts.

Speaking to the Worcester Telegram, police Lt. Sean Murtha said the boy was unresponsive and not breathing. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.

Harris’ mother, Lois Wolobah, told a local television station last year that before his death, her son was a healthy basketball player with no known allergies.

“I hope and pray to God that no parent goes through what I go through,” she said.

“I don’t want to see anyone suffer like I suffer. I miss my son so much. I miss him so much.’

In October 2022, a school district in Lafayette, Louisiana, banned chips on all campuses after several students needed medical attention.

Less than a month later, paramedics were called to a high school in Dunwood, Georgia, prompting police to issue a warning about the snack.

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