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Teenager who ate spicy tortilla chips died from heavy chili consumption and suffered heart defect, autopsy finds

The autopsy of a Massachusetts teenager who died after participating in a spicy tortilla chip challenge says his death was caused by consuming a large amount of chili pepper extract.

BOSTON — A Massachusetts teenager who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge on social media died after eating a large amount of chili pepper extract and also suffered from a congenital heart defect, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Associated Press.

The autopsy also revealed that Wolobah suffered from cardiomegaly, an enlarged heart, and a congenital anomaly described as “myocardial bridging of the left anterior descending coronary artery.”

Paqui, a subsidiary of the Texas-based Hershey Co., pulled the product from store shelves shortly after Harris’ death. The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment to Hershey on Thursday.

Harris’ cause of death was determined on Feb. 27 and a death certificate was delivered to the Worcester City Clerk’s Office on March 5, according to Elaine Driscoll, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Safety and Security public authorities in Massachusetts.

The Paqui chip, sold individually for about $10, was 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 stated that the chip was for adult consumption only and should be kept out of the reach of children.

Despite the warning, children had no problem buying the chips, and there were reports across the country of teenagers falling ill after taking part in the chip-eating challenge. Among them were three California high school students taken to the hospital and seven Minnesota students treated by paramedics after participating in the challenge in 2022.

The challenge called for participants to eat the Paqui chip and then see how long they could last without consuming other foods or water. Sales of the chip appeared to be driven largely by people posting videos on social media of themselves or their friends completing the challenge. They showed people, including children, unwrapping the packaging, eating the chips and then reacting to the heat. Some videos showed people retching, coughing and begging for water.

Spicy food challenges have existed for years. From local chili-eating competitions to restaurant walls of fame for those who finish piping hot dishes, people around the world have challenged themselves to eat particularly spicy foods, with some experts highlighting the internal rush of competition and risk taking.

A YouTube series called “Hot Ones” rose to Internet fame several years ago with videos showing celebrities’ reactions to eating spicy wings. Meanwhile, restaurants across the country have offered in-person challenges – from Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Blazin’ Challenge” to Wing King’s “Hell Challenge” in Las Vegas. In both challenges, customers over 18 can attempting to eat a certain amount of wings drizzled with extra hot sauce in a limited time without drinking or eating other foods. Chili pepper eating competitions are also regularly held around the world.

Extremely spicy products created and marketed solely for challenges – and possible internet fame – are a more recent phenomenon exacerbated by social media.

Harris’ death prompted warnings from Massachusetts officials and doctors, who warned that eating such spicy foods could have unintended consequences.


This story has been edited to conform to AP style: chili, instead of chili.

News Source : abcnews.go.com
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