Massachusetts teen died from eating spicy chip on social media challenge

Paqui, a Texas-based company, pulled the chips off the shelves after the death of Harris Wolobah

A Massachusetts teenager who participated in a social media challenge where users eat a spicy tortilla chip died from eating a large quantity of chile pepper extract and also had a congenital heart defect, according to autopsy results.

Harris Wolobah, from the city of Worcester, died on Sept. 1, 2023, after eating the chip manufactured by Paqui, a Texas-based subsidiary of the Hershey Co. 

Wolobah died of cardiopulmonary arrest "in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration," according to the autopsy from the Chief Office of the Medical Examiner. 

Capsaicin is the component that gives chile peppers their heat.


Harris Wolobah and a Paqui chip

Harris Wolobah, died died from ingesting a substance "with a high capsaicin concentration," according to autopsy results obtained by The Associated Press. (GoFundMe, Sarah Dussault/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images / Fox News)

"Capsaicin consumption can also cause more serious health problems including chest pain, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks. Consumption of larger amounts of capsaicin can also cause repeated vomiting that can lead to life-threatening esophageal damage. Because of this, people should use caution when consuming foods or products that contain capsaicin," she wrote in an article about the Paqui challenge on the website

Paqui pulled the chips off of shelves shortly after Wolobah's death.

The autopsy also said that Harris had an enlarged heart and a congenital defect described as "myocardial bridging of the left anterior descending coronary artery."


Paqui chips

Paqui One Chip Challenge chips are displayed at a 7-Eleven store in Boston. (AP Photo/Steve LeBlanc / AP Images)

Wolobah died after participating in the so-called "One Chip Challenge," a marketing campaign by Paqui. It involves eating a single spicy tortilla chip seasoned with Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper peppers, and then waiting as long as possible before eating or drinking anything else.

"Any time you're sort of testing the body to its maximum, bad things can happen," Bradford Holland, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Central Texas, previously told Fox News Digital. 

After Wolobah's death, Paqui said its product clearly states it is not intended for children or anyone sensitive to spicy foods. 

"While the Pacqui One Chip Challenge is intended for adults only, we have seen an increase in teen usage of the product," the company said at the time. 

One Paqui chip

A Paqui One Chip Challenge chip is displayed in Boston. A medical examiner says a Massachusetts teen who participated in a spicy tortilla chip challenge died from ingesting a substance "with a high capsaicin concentration," according to autopsy resul (AP / AP Images)


FOX Business has reached out to the company. The chip challenge was one of several involving spicy foods. Others include chili pepper contests and eating chicken wings doused in hot sauce. 

Fox News Digital's Gretchen Eichenberg contributed to this report.