One Chip Challenge, Cardiac Arrest, Massachusetts Teen

Autopsy Revealed Massachusetts Teen Died Of Cardiac Arrest From Hot Chip Challenge

The autopsy also revealed the teen had a congenital defect.

A teen from Massachusetts died shortly after allegedly participating in a hot chip challenge, with an autopsy recently revealing the cause of death as a cardiopulmonary arrest.

Harris Wolobah was 14 years old when he died in September 2023, as reported by NBC Boston. A high dose of capsaicin, a chile pepper extract found in the Hershey-Owned Paqui chips, prompted his untimely death. The company marketed the chip for its extremely high spice level. However, the individually packaged item is listed as ‘consumption for adults only.’

Despite this, the hot chip challenge went viral among teens, with Wolobah participating in how long one can eat the chip without consuming food or water. The results led to other injuries across the U.S., including California high schoolers taken to the hospital.

The increased ingestion of capsaicin did lead to Wolobah’s death. However, his autopsy also revealed the high school sophomore had an enlarged heart. Wolobah also had a congenital defect impacting the placement of his myocardial bridge, as his major artery ran inside his heart muscle, as opposed to its surface.

“It is possible that with significant stimulation of the heart, the muscle beyond the bridge suddenly had abnormal blood flow (‘ischemia’) and could have been a cause of a severe arrhythmia,” explained Tufts University’s Chief of Cardiology, Dr. James Udelson, to The Associated Press. “There have been reports of acute toxicity with capsaicin causing ischemia of the heart muscle.”

Those with underlying heart defects like Wolobah may be at higher risk when injecting hot foods. The chance of severe health issues, and even death, has become a greater issue with higher stakes, meaning spicier items. Despite these looming concerns, many young and old still partake in the challenge for viral internet fame.

Wolobah’s full autopsy report remains private. Paqui has also removed the chips from stores after his death.

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