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Teen died from eating a spicy chip as part of social media challenge, autopsy report shows

The manufacturer of the chip, Paqui, asked retailers to stop selling the product shortly after the 14-year-old died.
Spicy Chip Challenge
Posted at 11:05 AM, May 16, 2024

A Massachusetts teen who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge on social media died from ingesting a high amount of a chili pepper extract, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press.

Harris Wolobah, a 10th grader from the city of Worcester, died on Sept. 1, 2023, after eating the chip. He was found unresponsive by police who were called to his home, and brought to a hospital, where he died.

The cause of death was listed as cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration.”

The 14-year-old boy also had an enlarged heart and a congenital heart defect, according to the report, the findings of which were shared with the AP in an email from Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

The cause of death was determined on Feb. 27, and the death certificate was released to the city clerk’s office on March 5, Driscoll said.

The manufacturer of the chip, Paqui, asked retailers to stop selling the product shortly after Harris' death.

The chip, sold individually for about $10, comes wrapped in foil in a coffin-shaped box containing the warning that it is intended for the “vengeful pleasure of intense heat and pain.” The warning notes that the chip is for adult consumption only, and should be kept out of the reach of children.

Despite the warning, children have had no problem buying the chips. There have been reports from around the country of teens who have gotten sick after taking part in the challenge, including three California high school students who were sent to a hospital. Paramedics were called to a Minnesota school when seven students fell ill after taking part in the challenge.