Popular spicy challenge led to the death of high school student

Paqui removed their product from stores after the death of a 14-year-old, ending the ‘One Chip Challenge.’

Photo of Paqui chip

The death of a 14-year-old high school student has resulted in the now infamous “One Chip Challenge” being removed from the shelves of stores.

Harris Wolobah, a Massachusetts high school sophomore, ate the chip on September 1 and went to the school nurse with a stomach ache. That afternoon, Wolobah passed out in his home and was officially pronounced dead in the hospital later that day. An autopsy has yet to be performed.

The challenge itself encourages people to record themselves eating the chip, their subsequent reactions to its spiciness and post it on social media. The challenge has been taken on by celebrities such as Shaquille O’Neal, Tony Hawk, Kristen Bell and Michael Peña, and has been featured on talk shows such as the Ellen Show and Hot Ones.

Following the death of Wolobah, Paqui, the brand that created the chip and its corresponding challenge, released a statement.

“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,” read the statement.

The company recognized that there has been 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,” says the statement.

This isn’t the first time the chip has caused suffering after being consumed by minors. In January of 2022, three students in a California high school were hospitalized after having severe reactions to the chip. Nine other students at the school were also reported to have become sick after eating the chip, which resulted in its ban from the school campus.

Philosophy and history major Chad Beauchamp said his experience with the Paqui One Chip was horrible.

“I went and did it and the first five minutes was chill… then after that everything hit you all at once,” Beauchamp said. “Your throat felt like it was on fire, felt like you had snake acid in your eyes… everytime you breathe it feels like you’re inhaling fire.”

Paqui has been rolling out variations of the singular spicy chip that comes packaged in a coffin-shaped container since 2016. Before its removal from shelves, 87 different companies across the country carried and sold the chip, including 7/11, Walgreens and AM PM.

Not everyone has bad experiences with the challenge.

Human Biology student Owen Kuchinad said the one chip challenge was easy.

“It was fine, it wasn’t that bad.” Kuchinad said.

The two peppers that are included in the ingredients for the most recent version of the chip are the Carolina Reaper pepper and the Naga Viper pepper. The Carolina Reaper has a score of 1.7 million Scoville units, a measurement used to test heat levels in peppers and other substances. The Naga Viper has a score of 1.4 million units, according to the Paqui website.

For contrast, a habanero pepper ranges between a score of 100,000 and 350,000 units.

Kuchinad said because of Woloba’s death his brother decided to cancel the punishment for his fantasy football league, which had previously been the spicy challenge.

In addition to taking its products off of store shelves, Paqui is also offering refunds for single-serve one chip challenge products.