The One Chip Challenge has been seemingly everywhere. The viral internet challenge began in 2016 and has been popularized through the TV series Hot Ones and TikTok. The seemingly harmless trend turned deadly recently, though, and now questions surround both the challenge and the chip maker, Paqui.
According to Fox26 Houston,” In recent weeks, there have been several reports of people who have gotten sick after participating in the challenge. One 14-year-old boy in Massachusetts died shortly after doing the chip challenge. His death is still under investigation, but his parents believe it was caused by the challenge.”
The One Chip Challenge was started by Paqui, a tortilla chip company. They sell miniature containers, each with only one very spicy chip and the label reading “One Chip Challenge.” The challenge is to eat the single hot tortilla chip and see how long you can last before eating or drinking anything else. The company encourages participants to post videos and images of their reactions on social media.
The Paqui website currently includes a statement that reads,
“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.
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 SHELVES.”
The warning on the chip advises that the product is intended for adult consumption and that consumers should not eat the chip if they are sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, nightshades or capsaicin. It also directs consumers to seek medical attention should they experience difficulty breathing, extended nausea, or fainting.
No Direct Link to Death but Health Problems are Possible
It’s important to know that the cause of that Massachusetts teen’s death has not been directly linked to the Paqui One Chip challenge; an autopsy is underway to determine how he died. However, medical experts do say that the One Chip Challenge can cause a variety of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, and even heart problems. They warn that the challenge is not safe for minors or people with health conditions.
Dr. Melanie Ribbeck of the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic advises, “There is the potential for dangerous side effects from consuming large amounts of capsaicin. Repeated episodes of vomiting after eating something hot that can damage your esophagus. There are also reports of people experiencing chest pains or having heart attacks.”
Poison Control Advice
Fox9 reports that Poison Control has a web page dedicated to the challenge, which explains the ingredient in the chips causing some consumers distress is capsaicin, a compound found naturally in chili peppers. When eaten in high concentrations, capsaicin can cause anything from mild mouth and throat pain to intestinal and throat irritation, or even, in extreme cases, heart palpitations and heart attacks.
According to Poison Control, the best way to seek immediate relief after eating foods that contain capsaicin is by drinking milk. The agency also recommends people wash their hands thoroughly after eating the chips to avoid spreading capsaicin to their eyes. If capsaicin gets in your eyes, the agency recommends washing them out with room temperature water for 15-20 minutes.
Anyone with severe reactions should seek help from Poison Control via this webpage or by calling 1-800-222-1222.