BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Paqui voluntarily removing One Chip Challenge product from shelves

Sep 9, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: Sep 12, 2023, 1:08 pm

A package of Paqui OneChipChallenge spicy tortilla chips is seen on September 7 in Boston. Tortilla...

A package of Paqui OneChipChallenge spicy tortilla chips is seen on September 7 in Boston. Tortilla chip brand Paqui says it is voluntarily removing its ultra-spicy “One Chip Challenge” from shelves. Photo credit: Steve LeBlanc/AP

(CNN) — Tortilla chip brand Paqui says it is voluntarily removing its ultra-spicy “One Chip Challenge” from shelves after a Massachusetts family claims their 14-year-old son may have died from complications from the challenge.

Authorities have not confirmed or commented on whether consumption of the chips caused the teen’s death. Paqui did not respond to a request for comment from CNN.

The “challenge” chip contains seasoning from a Carolina Reaper Pepper and a Naga Viper Pepper, according to Paqui’s website. The challenge includes eating a singular spicy chip, which is sold in coffin-shaped packaging and turns participants’ tongues blue.

A Carolina Reaper Pepper is around 1.7 million units on the Scoville scale, which measures the spiciness of a pepper, according to the website. The Naga Viper is around 1.4 million, the website says. A jalapeño pepper averages 3,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale.

Medical call

The Worcester Police Department in Massachusetts said it responded to a medical call on Sept. 1, when 14-year-old Harris Wolobah was found “unresponsive and not breathing.” He was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to the police.

Lois Wolobah told CNN affiliate WBZ that she received a phone call from the nurse’s office on Friday saying her son had fainted after eating a chip his friend gave him. Lois said he passed out again at home and he later died at the emergency room.

CNN could not reach Lois Wolobah for comment Thursday.

Timothy McGuirk, deputy director of communications for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, told CNN the autopsy has been completed but the report has not been released or made public and won’t be for a number of months.

Worcester Public Schools earlier this week also confirmed the death on Facebook, saying Wolobah was a “sophomore scholar at Doherty Memorial High School.”

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Harris Wolobah and express our condolences to the family,” a Paqui spokesperson said in a statement to CNN affiliate WCVB.

One chip challenge was intended only for adults

The challenge was intended for adults only and not for anyone with sensitivity to spicy foods or food allergies, anyone who is pregnant and anyone with underlying health conditions, Paqui said in a statement on their website.

“We have seen an increase in teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings,” the statement says, “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.”

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. wrote on X — formerly Twitter — that “while the investigation into the cause of the teenager’s death in Worcester continues, the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office would like to remind parents to research and discuss with your children about the one-chip challenge.”

Refunds are being offered on the single-serve product of the challenge.

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Paqui voluntarily removing One Chip Challenge product from shelves