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Told You So: Teen Dies From One-Chip Challenge

We warned you – just this past Sunday in ‘Musings’ – that someone was going to die after trying the One Chip Challenge. Just days later comes news of the death of a Mass. teen who took the dare. The product has been recalled…

Harris Wolobah - © 2023 Rod B. Photos via APHarris Wolobah in action: Dad says he was a healthy high school basketball player.
Then he tried the Paqui corn chip One Chip Challenge and died as a result..

Steamy debate has erupted online and off since Worcester, Mass. teen Harris Wolobah died hours after taking the One Chip Challenge. Harris’s family told CBS News they wanted the product banned. It has now been taken off the shelves.

“I hope, I pray to God that no [other] parents will go through what I’m going through. I don’t want to see anybody hurting the way I’m hurting.” Harris’s mother Lois Wolobah told WBZ-TV.

Lois was called by the school nurse to pick Harris up last Friday, “saying he had fainted after eating the chip a friend gave him.” She found him lying on a cot. “I said, ‘what was the chip you ate?’ And this is what he showed me,” said his mother, holding up her phone [displaying] an image of the Paqui brand 2023 One Chip Challenge.

Harris died in hospital a few hours later.

The challenge

The challenge was created as a marketing stunt by The Hot Chip Company (HCC) in the Czech Republic, employing what it claims are, “tortilla chips [made] from the hottest peppers in the world.” The peppers are, indeed, Carolina Reapers, the hottest commercially cultivated peppers on earth, and Naga Vipers.

The Challenge, specifically, was for those daring (or stupid) enough to eat just one volcanic chip and remain standing. Participants were encouraged to make a video of their attempt and send it to the company. Selected vids were posted on its website. Vid submitters were to be entered in a draw for an iPhone.

Would you risk your life for an iPhone?

The disclaimer

The HCC did post a detailed disclaimer, warning the young, old and infirm not to attempt the challenge:

“Those people who dare to eat a chip may experience extreme burning in the mouth, blurred vision or breathing difficulties for a short period of time, similar to what happens when taking other hot chilies. The product is not suitable for children, pregnant and lactating women. Avoid consumption if you are allergic to capsaicin or have health problems in general.”

A North American partner

Harris Wolobah didn’t have to order his deadly chip online from The Czech Republic. It transpires that the Paqui snack company, (slogan: ‘Real Peppers – Real Heat’) has rights to the chip and the Challenge in North America. Like its Czech counterpart, Paqui specializes in hot pepper-flavoured corn chips. The Paqui version of the One-Chip Challenge ‘product’ was available at stores less than 10 minutes from Wolobah’s school.

Now, Paqui is back-pedalling like mad to save its reputation (such as it is):

“The Paqui One Chip Challenge is intended for adults only, with clear and prominent labeling highlighting the chip is not for children or anyone sensitive to spicy foods or who has food allergies, is pregnant or has underlying health conditions.

“We have seen an increase in teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings. As a result, while the product continues to adhere to food safety standards, out of an abundance of caution, we are actively working with our retailers to remove the product from shelves.

“We are also offering refunds on our single-serve One Chip Challenge product.”

Paqui also sells its products in Canada, where a federal recall order has been issued.

A Hershey connection

Hershey’s owns Paqui by virtue of the chocolate giant’s ownership of Amplify Brands. Amplify in turn owns the Paqui, Skinny Pop Popcorn and Pirate’s Booty brands. Imagine the pressure coming down from the top on Amplify and Paqui just now…

Won’t bring Harris back

But neither earnest, somber assertions by the maker, nor recalls will bring back Harris Wolobah.

His dad confirmed that Harris had no pre-existing conditions or known allergies. In fact, the family insists he was a healthy high school basketball player.

The cause of his death won’t be finalized until a detailed autopsy is completed. That, a spokesperson told CBS, could take ‘several weeks’.

I can almost hear the click of unlawful death claim lawyers’ briefcases snapping open… *

~ Maggie J.


* Many thanks to master editorialist and humourist Carl Hiaasen, late of the Miami Herald, who originally penned this all-too-appropriate whammo closing statement – which I couldn’t resist ripping off!