Death of teen who ate a spicy chip has experts rethinking capsaicin and its effects

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The tragic death of a Massachusetts teenager who collapsed after eating an extremely spicy tortilla chip last year may prompt both doctors and food manufacturers to take a closer look at the ingredient that provides the punch — capsaicin.

Harris Wolobah died in September at age 14 from cardiopulmonary arrest “in the setting of recent ingestion of food substance with high capsaicin concentration,” according to a statement released Thursday by Elaine Driscoll, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

He had consumed a chip manufactured by Paqui that was packed with the chili pepper extract and marketed as the “One Chip Challenge.”

Paqui pulled the chips, which came individually wrapped and in a coffin-shaped container with a skull on the front, from shelves after Wolobah’s death.