Family Blames Teen’s Death on Chili Pepper Chip Challenge

Harris Wolobah, 14, died after allegedly participating in the Paqui One Chip Challenge

Massachusetts teen Harris Wolobah.
Massachusetts teen Harris Wolobah's death may have been caused by hot peppers.
Tashia Roberts/GoFundMe

The family of a Massachusettes teenager is blaming his death on major health complications he suffered after allegedly participating in the Paqui One Chip Challenge.

Harris Wolobah, 14, went to the nurse’s office at Doherty Memorial High School after he fainted when his friend supposedly gave him a Paqui chip containing Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper peppers. His mother came to the school and brought him home, where he passed out again. Wolobah then went to the emergency room and died, according to CBS News.

“No pre-existing condition,” his father Amos told CBS. “Not to my knowledge. We’ve been having sleepless nights. He’s not going to come back.”

The packaging for Paqui’s chips warns that the chips are for adults only and should be kept away from children or anyone who has allergies or sensitivities to spicy food. However, it is still hard to believe that a child or someone with allergies or sensitivities to spicy food should have reasonably been able to know they were risking death by ingesting a spicy chip.

To be clear, the exact cause of Wolobah’s death has yet to be determined by a medical examiner. But, as Wolobah’s family waits for the Massachusetts Medical Examiner’s office to complete an autopsy, they are convinced it was the chip that caused his death.

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“Ingestion of peppers often causes anal burning, feeling of mouth-burning, and burning down the esophagus like acid reflux,” Jackie Wolf, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Boston Globe. “You could also get burning over the bladder, low in your belly, and when you urinate. It is rare to cause trouble breathing when eating peppers, but with pepper spray, breathing issues can occur.”

A GoFundMe to raise money for Wolobah’s funeral services has raised nearly $30,000 thus far. “The pain our family is experiencing is unimaginable,” per the campaign page. “Harris was a light that lit up the room with his presence and subtle charm. He was an intelligent, quirky and incredibly talented young man who loved video games and playing basketball.”

Representatives from Texas-based Paqui have yet to comment on the matter. As of now, their chips can still purchased.


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