Paqui, a shack chip owned by Hershey Co., has pulled an extremely spicy version of the snack from shelves amid health concerns, including the death of a teenager who died after eating the chip, his mother said.
The brand runs an annual contest called #OneChipChallenge that asks consumers to consume a single spicy chip. This year’s version was made from Carolina Reaper Pepper and the Naga Viper, two of the hottest peppers in the world.
Harris Wolobah, 14, of Worcester, Massachusetts, recently consumed the chip and died shortly after, as reported by The New York Times. While an autopsy report was not available, his mother told the newspaper that the chip was one of the last things he ate; she picked him up from school last Friday and found him clutching his stomach and he was later rushed to the hospital and died, the Times reported.
“I just want there to be an awareness for parents to know that it’s not safe,” Lois Wolobah told the newspaper. “It needs to be out of the market completely.”
Paqui, which is owned by Hershey Co.-controlled Amplify Snack Brands today on its website confirmed it was pulling the product, known as the Reaper.
“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 food allergies, is pregnant or has underlying health conditions,” Paqui said. “We have seen an increase in teens and other individuals not heeding these warnings,” it added, saying that “out of an abundance of caution, we are actively working with our retailers to remove the product from shelves.”
Walmart as of Thursday evening was still selling the chip online for $18. It comes packaged in a coffin-shaped box.
The case is another example of social media-fed trends involving brands leading to trouble. Pauqui has run the contest for seven years, partly as a way to gain attention on platforms such as TikTok. For instance, last year’s challenge involved a chip that turned tongues blue and the brand encouraged consumers to prove they’ve eaten one of the chips by sharing a picture of their blue tongue on social media.
The hashtag #OneChipChallenge has earned some 2 billion views in TikTok, including videos from previous years.