Massachusetts Teen Dies After Participating in Spicy Chip Challenge, Autopsy Reveals High Capsaicin Intake

A Massachusetts teenager died from consuming a spicy tortilla chip as part of a social media challenge, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press.

Harris Wolobah, a 10th grader from Worcester, passed away on September 1, 2023, after ingesting the chip. Police found him unresponsive at his home and he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The autopsy listed the cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration.” Additionally, the report by NBC noted that the 14-year-old had an enlarged heart and a congenital heart defect.

Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, shared the findings with the AP. The cause of death was determined on February 27, and the death certificate was released to the city clerk’s office on March 5.

Following Harris’ death, the chip manufacturer, Paqui, asked retailers to stop selling the product. The chip, sold individually for about $10, comes wrapped in foil inside a coffin-shaped box with a warning that it is intended for adult consumption only and should be kept out of reach of children.

Despite these warnings, children have been able to purchase the chips, leading to reports AP News of teens falling ill after participating in the challenge.

Incidents include three California high school students who were hospitalized and paramedics being called to a Minnesota school when seven students became ill after consuming the chips.