May 26, 2024


When 14-year-old Harris Wolobah of Massachusetts died last fall, the boy’s family suspected it could be related to a viral spicy potato chip he ate just a few hours earlier. Wolobah’s family was correct, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Associated Press.

The high school sophomore died on Sept. 23, 2023, after eating a Paqui brand chip called the “One Chip Challenge,” which was dusted with the extremely hot Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper peppers. Wolobah tried the chip while in school and went to the nurse’s office complaining of stomach pain. The teen was sent home but his condition worsened and he was transported to the hospital, where he later died.

The cause of death, according to the autopsy report seen by the AP, was cardiopulmonary arrest, “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration.” The boy also had an “enlarged heart and a congenital heart defect,” according to the AP, though it’s unclear whether those conditions were known to the boy or his family before he died.

The Paqui “One Chip Challenge” chips were first released in 2016 and skyrocketed in popularity after becoming a social media sensation. Celebrities like Tony Hawk and Shaquille O’Neal went viral for attempting the challenge, but it was clear from all the clips circulating on YouTube and TikTok that this food was not to be taken lightly.

One local TV news anchor in Denver actually vomited on air in 2017 after several reporters tried the challenge. KWGN’s Natalie Tysdal wrote about the incident on Facebook:

So, what really happened on TV this morning with the “one chip challenge?” I thought I was okay until I had a drink of my coffee to wash down the chip. I threw up, couldn’t breathe and felt like fire was coming out of my mouth, nose and ears. I had a bottle of water, a glass of milk, a tablespoon of honey and 3 mints and still felt on fire. An hour later I had chills and a massive headache. Three hours have gone by and I feel like I was beat up in a dark alley. Oh, and did I mention I shared the chip with my producer Scott Elliott? CRAZY! I wouldn’t recommend it.

The chips had a warning that they shouldn’t be consumed by children but there was no formal prohibition on sales to minors. Even before Wolobah’s death in 2023, there were many reports of children getting hurt from the challenge.

Paqui stopped selling “One Chip Challenge” chips not long after Wolobah died and scrubbed its website of the playful advertising that surrounded the product.



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