Eat at your own risk: chilli with health warning

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Capable of a heat several thousand times stronger than any curry, the world's strongest chilli powder is so fiery that its inventor will not be held responsible for its consequences.

Capable of a heat several thousand times stronger than any curry, the world's strongest chilli powder is so fiery that its inventor will not be held responsible for its consequences.

Before you sample the ultra-fine powder, a waiver must be signed absolving its maker of liability for your demise or serious injury.

Given that it is manufactured in conditions similar to those for making chemical weapons, allowing the powder to touch the skin is not advisable.

Blair Lazar, the maker, a hardened "chilli head", said: "It was like having your tongue hit with a hammer. Man it hurt. My tongue swelled up and it hurt like hell for days."

Mr Lazar's concoction, "16 Million Reserve", is pure capsaicin, the chemical that gives chillies their heat, and will be unleashed on the American market this week.

Just a few crystals are in each wax-sealed crystal flask, and just 999 limited-edition bottles will be available for $199 (£105) each.

Just how strong this powder is can be seen by how it compares with other chillies. The internationally recognised measurement of heat is the Scoville unit, named after an American chemist, Wilbur Scoville, who in 1912 devised a test for the potency of chilli.

The strongest chilli is the red savina, from Mexico, which entered the Guinness Book of Records at 570,000 units, while the still fiery jalapeño chilli has between 2,500 and 5,000 units.

Both will bring tears to your eyes, but their power is dwarfed by the 16 million units - hence the name - registered by Mr Lazar's powder. Mr Lazar claims that 250,000 gallons of water would have to be consumed before the chilli could no longer be tasted.

His company, Extreme Foods, uses several tons of fresh peppers to produce 1lb of capsaicin for the 16 Million Reserve. Moisture is removed from fresh peppers until they form a thick, tar-like substance from which all impurities are removed using a secret technique. The process takes place in a laboratory where workers must wear white, sealed suits and masks to prevent them inhaling the dust.

Mr Lazar began his career as a hot sauce creator after he discovered he could clear drunks from the bar at which he worked by giving them chicken dipped in a hot home-made sauce.

A "2am Reserve" made by Extreme Foods was made in honour of his time behind the bar, followed by a "6am Reserve", which measured 10 million units.

He admits the powder has little use in cooking, and will be consumed by so-called chilli heads searching for the next hot-high.

"It shouldn't be used for flavour," he said. "The only function is its heat value."

The maker of some of Britain's hottest chillies says there will be no attempt to match the Americans.

Steve Waters, co-owner of the South Devon Chilli Farm, said: "The Americans are obsessed with having the hottest chilli and you have brands like 'A Bomb', a tiny drop of which can be very, very painful on the tongue."

The hottest chilli sold by his company is the habanero which is pickled in cider vinegar and has a strength of around 500,000 units.

While there might be little culinary use for such hot chilli, those who consume it might be getting high on the pain, says Mr Waters. "Real chilli lovers have said that it really gets the endorphins going and can be as addictive as jogging."

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