Family say son was ‘poisoned’ by One Chip Challenge after it was linked to teen’s death

John Pedigo said his sixth-grader son, Jack, took part in the challenge before going into a near seizure-like state

Martha McHardy,Maggie O'Neill
Friday 08 September 2023 14:58 BST
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The challenge is a product of the brand Paqui
The challenge is a product of the brand Paqui (Paqui)

A San Francisco family have claimed their son was “poisoned” by the “One Chip Challenge“ after the TikTok craze was linked to a teen’s death in Massachusetts.

John Pedigo said his sixth-grader son, Jack, took part in the challenge before going into a near seizure-like state.

The One Chip Challenge involves eating a spicy chip and waiting as long as possible before drinking or eating anything else for relief.

The challenge is a product of the brand Paqui, which makes tortilla chips. The chip, which is said to be among the spiciest in the world, comes in a small, coffin-shaped package. It was only available in the US and Canada before being pulled from shelves this week.

Pedigo told CNBC he got a call from Jack’s school saying he had been poisoned after taking part in the challenge.

“All these things are going through my head: ‘Who poisoned him? Who could’ve given him something like that?’” Pedigo said.

The concerned father said he was unaware his son had taken part in the challenge.

“The administrator said he participated in the One Chip Challenge and I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Is that what this is?’”

Jack said he began breathing heavily and vomiting after eating the spicy chip, and he could not move his hands.

“When I ate the chip, it was really spicy and all. When it was gone, I was fine, then I was sick, I was in the office and my stomach started hurting, my hands were stuck in (one) position. I couldn’t move them. I could barely open them up. It felt like they weren’t even my hands,” Jack said.

Mr Pedigo said he hopes to spread awareness that the challenge is not for children and that his son will never do the challenge again.

“Lesson learned. I don’t need to say anything. What happened to him, I don’t think he will ever do it again,” Pedigo said.

It comes after 14-year-old high school student Harris Wolobah died on 1 September after participating in the One Chip Challenge.

The official cause of Wolobah’s death has not been revealed and is under investigation by Massachusetts authorities, but his family called for the chips to be banned from store shelves.

Harris Wolobah died after taking part in the challenge
Harris Wolobah died after taking part in the challenge (The Harris Wolobah family's GoFundMe campaign)

The chip contains Carolina Reaper pepper and Naga Viper pepper. A warning label posted underneath the “Buy Now” and “Find Near You” buttons on the company’s website advises people to avoid the chip if they are “sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, night shades or capsaicin, or are pregnant or have any medical condition”.

It also states that the chip should be left out of reach of children, and advises customers to wash their hands with soap after touching the chip. Paqui suggests that customers seek medical assistance if they experience difficulty breathing, nausea, or fainting after they eat the chip.

Experts have warned against taking part in the challenge. Keri Gans, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist, told The Independent: “Everyone’s an individual — what one person’s body can tolerate might be completely different from what another person’s body can tolerate. It’s not worth the chance.”

Ms Gans said that though spicy foods are often viewed as a challenge to power through, they can pose real risks to certain people. “Pain is never a positive sign of anything. You shouldn’t feel pain when you eat a food,” she said.

Meanwhile, urgent care provider Allan Capin MD said doing the One Chip Challenge “is like putting a bomb in your stomach if you’re not prepared for it.”

If you notice any severe symptoms after eating spicy foods, you should seek medical help immediately. However, if you’ve eaten something spicy and are experiencing more mild symptoms — like watery eyes or burning in your mouth — you should try eating bread or drinking lemonade or milk to relieve the symptoms.

Paqui announced on Thursday that it is removing the spicy tortilla chip from store shelves.

The Independent has reached out to Paqui for comment.

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