A tragic incident has occurred in Worcester, Massachusetts, where a 14-year-old boy, Harris Wolobah, died after participating in the viral TikTok "One Chip Challenge." The challenge involves eating what is claimed to be the hottest tortilla chip on the planet and refraining from consuming any food or drink to alleviate the pain for as long as possible. Harris fell ill at school with severe stomach ache after consuming the dangerously spicy tortilla chip and was subsequently taken home by his mother, Lois. However, a few hours later, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. While the cause of Harris' death has yet to be confirmed, his family believes it is related to the chip challenge.
The tortilla chip responsible for this tragedy is produced by Paqui, a Texas-based brand owned by The Hershey Company. Paqui has been promoting the challenge since 2016 and releases a new flavor each year. The chip comes in a box shaped like a coffin, adding to its dangerous allure. The latest version of the chip combines the Carolina Reaper Pepper and Scorpion Pepper, two of the world's hottest peppers. This chip is marketed as being "intended for adult consumption" and carries a warning to keep it out of reach of children.
Despite these warnings, videos on social media platforms like TikTok show children participating in the challenge, sometimes encouraged by their families. One TikTok user, @???angela_b157, shared a video of a young girl in tears after consuming the blue tortilla chip. Later, she was taken to the hospital to receive treatment for intense stomach pain.
This dangerous trend has also caught the attention of various organizations and authorities. The UK's Food Standards Agency has expressed concern over reports of individuals being sent to the hospital in agony after participating in the challenge. Tina Potter, head of incidents at the agency, emphasized the importance of consuming food as intended and following any consumer advice provided on packaging. If any unsafe food is identified, the agency will take swift action to remove it from the market and notify consumers.
5Rights, a British children's charity founded by Baroness Kidron, has also raised alarm bells regarding social media platforms promoting risky content to children. Leanda Barrington-Leach, director of international advocacy at 5Rights, called for legislation that prioritizes children's rights and needs when designing the online world.
The side effects of consuming the Paqui chip include swelling, nausea, vomiting, eye pain, diarrhea, abdominal pain, heartburn, and headaches. These reactions are caused by capsaicin, the active compound responsible for the heat of chili peppers. The body perceives capsaicin as a real burn, triggering the release of chemicals that further irritate cells in the mouth and digestive system.
Paqui has previously stated that it takes safety seriously and works diligently to ensure its products are properly labeled with allergen and safety information. The company encourages consumers to approach the challenge with a full understanding of its potential effects and suitability for them. Paqui advises seeking medical assistance if breathing difficulties, fainting, or prolonged nausea occur after consuming the chip.
The tragedy of Harris Wolobah's death has sent shockwaves throughout the Worcester community. His school superintendent, Rachel Monarrez, expressed her condolences, describing Harris as a rising star and stating that she cannot fathom the pain his family, friends, and teachers are experiencing. Harris' basketball coach, Douglas Hill, described him as a dedicated and hardworking player and emphasized that this incident was not his fault.
Dr. Lauren Rice, the Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, explained that the consumption of spicy food can lead to various symptoms, ranging from mouth or lip burning to heart issues. The effects can be severe and even life-threatening.
This tragic incident highlights the potential dangers of viral challenges promoted on social media platforms. It serves as a stark reminder for parents to be vigilant in monitoring their children's online activities and ensuring their safety.