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Posted in Our Blog on September 13, 2023
A recent teen death has increased awareness of the dangers of the Paqui One Chip Challenge. The community is speaking out and raising funds for the family of young Massachusetts basketball player, calling the potentially life-threatening product to be pulled from the market.
The product, packaged and marketed toward adults has become widely popular among teenagers wishing to show off online by consuming an extremely hot chip.
A 14-year-old teenager recently died hours after eating the spicy tortilla chip hitting the Tik Tok “For You” pages across the country. This kid was what anyone would consider healthy, no known allergies, and active. He was on the basketball team in his high school.
His basketball coaches hosted a fundraiser at the St. Bernard’s Church to help the family cover the funeral costs and offer respect to the family. He was described as being positive and focused on school and basketball.
“The kind of kid you just want to be around when it comes to basketball and life in general because he wasn’t really focused on anything negative. His whole focus was going to school, getting out of school as soon as he could to go play basketball, and just be with his family at the end of the day. So you know this is a tragic loss, and we’re going to miss, we’re going to make sure, you know, hold him in our prayers and his family in our prayers and we’re going to be here for each other.
— Douglas Hill, Director of Basketball Operations, St. Bernard’s High School
According to reports, the teen at the chip at school and fainted shortly after. He was taken to the school nurse and his mother was called to pick him up from school. A few hours after being home, he passed out again. His family took him to the emergency room to seek medical attention, but it was already too late. He was pronounced dead at the Emergency Department.
The autopsy is still pending.
According to the product’s website, the one chip challenge is intended for adults and the seasoning contains “two of the hottest peppers currently available.” This includes the Carolina Reaper that boasts around 1.7 million Scoville Units and the Naga Viper Pepper with around 1.4 million Scoville Units.
The Scoville Scale ranges from “mild” (0 to 2000 units), which includes green bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, and poblano peppers all the way to “extremely hot” (1.5 million to 10+ million units), which includes the Carolina Reaper and everything in between.
The warning on the package indicates to “keep out of reach of children” and “intended for adult consumption” with warnings of not eating the product if you are sensitive to spicy foods, have allergies to peppers, night shades, or capsaicin, are pregnant, or have any other medical conditions. The warning also includes to wash hands and not to touch the eyes or sensitive areas after handling the chip and to seek medical attention if you have difficulty breathing, fainting, or extended nausea following consuming the chip.
Despite the chip not containing any of the FDA’s Top 9 recognized allergens, the intensity of the peppers has been known to cause serious allergic reactions in people not typically sensitive to capsaicin.
This is not an isolated incident. The One Chip Challenge has been in the news with reports coming from all around the country. Three California high school students were sent to a hospital following the One Chip Challenge. Paramedics were called to respond to another seven students in Minnesota who fell sick after participating in the challenge.
An entire page on the National Poison Control website discusses this trending, potentially dangerous topic. According to Poison.org, the main concern with the One Chip Challenge is the capsaicin. Capsaicin is a naturally occurring compound in chili peppers. It is used as a defense mechanism by the plant to fight against predators.
While naturally occurring, capsaicin can also be synthesized chemically. It appears that the capsaicin on the tortilla chip is natural. While colorless and odorless, it is highly pungent to the taste and extremely irritating to the eyes, skin, and mouth of humans and animals.
After eating the chip, the capsaicin will begin to immediately irritate the mouth and throat. This irritation and painful signs and symptoms can last anywhere from several hours to several days in some individuals.
In addition to topical pain and intestinal discomfort, the One Chip Challenge can cause some serious health problems, including “shortness of breath, allergic reactions, chest pain, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks or strokes.” Consuming this product can also cause repeated vomiting, which can lead to life-threatening esophageal damage.
Serious health problems can occur after consuming the Paqui One Chip Challenge chip, including “shortness of breath, allergic reactions, chest pain, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks or strokes.”
Other medical representatives have chimed in on the seriousness of the health problems that can result after eating the product.
“It’s possible eating these chips with high concentration of capsaicin could cause death,” says Dr. Peter Chai, associate professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It would really depend on the amount of capsaicin that an individual was exposed to. At high doses, it can lead to fatal dysrhythmia or irreversible injury to the heart.”
According to the company’s website, in response to the product being used by unintended audiences, they have begun the process of removing product from store shelves.
The company issued the following 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 allergies, is pregnant or has underlying health conditions.
We have seen 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 the shelves.”
Despite the product being labeled for adult use only, there is no age restriction prohibiting a minor from purchasing the product like other controlled products such as alcohol or tobacco products.
One father responded publicly after his daughter was suspended for bringing the product to the school. His 12-year-old son bought the chip at a Walgreens store. Once discovered, his mother made him throw the product away. His 10-year-old sister fished it out of the garbage and brought it to school.
He brings up the concern, “The box says keep out of the hands of children. It says it’s for adult consumption only. Why are y’all selling it to a 12-year-old child?”
Parents around the country are echoing that same remark.
Children fall prey to marketing and trends every day. A product known to cause serious and life-threatening illness is a risk, even for adults. When children become peer-pressured to participate in these types of trends, parents are often left helpless and picking up the pieces in the aftermath.
The experienced food poisoning lawyers of The Lange Law Firm, PLLC, can help answer questions you have, if you or a family member experienced adverse reaction. Call for a free consultation at (833) 330-3663 or click here to email.
By: Heather Van Tassell