Coroner Rules Massachusetts Teen Died From Eating Extremely Spicy Chip In Social Media Challenge: REPORT

Image not that of victim (Public/Screenshots/Twitter/User: @paquichips)

John Oyewale Contributor
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A coroner ruled that a Massachusetts high school student who died last September after participating in a spicy chip challenge died from the product’s high content of a chili pepper extract, The Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday.

Harry Wolobah, 14, of Worcester, died Sep. 1, 2023. Cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration” caused his death, findings from his Feb. 27 autopsy report shared with the AP reportedly revealed.

Wolobah also had an enlarged heart and a congenital heart defect, Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, shared with the AP.

Wolobah, a sophomore at the Doherty Memorial High School, got a stomach ache after eating the chip. The school nurse then sent him home, where he fell unconscious, according to multiple reports. He was later pronounced dead in a hospital. Wolobah’s mother, Lois, contended that Wolobah should have been sent to a hospital rather than home. (RELATED: Teen Dies After Eating Spicy Chip For Internet Challenge, Family Claims)

Six days after Wolobah’s passing, Paqui — the Austin, Texas-based company that manufactured the single-serve 2023 Paqui Carolina Reaper + Naga Viper Pepper chip and publicized the One Chip Challenge — pulled the product from retail shelves, according to a statement.

“While the Paqui One Chip Challenge is intended for adults only, we have seen an increase in teen usage of the product. […] The product’s label clearly states it is not for children or anyone sensitive to spicy foods or who has food allergies, is pregnant or has underlying health conditions,” the Sep. 7, 2023 statement read in part.

Paqui also offered to refund customers who wanted to send back their unconsumed chips.

The chip, which comes in a coffin-shaped container emblazoned with a green snake wound around a dripping blood-red skull, appears to remain for sale online as of Thursday morning.

Doherty High School Superintendent Dr. Rachel Monárrez announced Wolobah’s death to the school. She praised him as a “rising star” and condoled with his family in her Sep. 3, 2023 statement to the school.

Several other online challenges — including a choking challenge popular on TikTok — have injured or claimed several children’s lives, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.