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The creator of the spicy "One Chip Challenge" is removing the product from store shelves


The manufacturer of extremely spicy tortilla chips announced on Thursday that they are working to remove this product from stores as Massachusetts authorities investigate the death of a teenager whose family pointed to the One Chip Challenge, popularized as a social media dare, as a contributing factor.

The cause of Harris Voloby's death on September 1st has not yet been determined, pending an autopsy, but the family of the 14-year-old has blamed the issue on it.

After his death, Texas-based manufacturer Paqui asked retailers to stop selling the individually packaged chips, and 7-Eleven has already taken this step.

A vigil in honor of the teenager is scheduled for Friday evening in Worcester's park in central Massachusetts.

The One Chip Challenge chip is sold for around $10 and comes in a sealed foil package placed in a coffin-shaped cardboard box. The packaging warns that the chip is designed for "vengeful pleasure from intense heat and pain," is intended for adults, and should be kept out of reach of children.

Paqui, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company, said in a statement published on its website on Thursday that it is "deeply saddened" by Voloby's death.

"We are witnessing an increase in the number of teenagers and others who do not heed these warnings," the company said. "As a result, while the product continues to meet food safety standards, out of an abundance of caution, we are actively working with retailers to remove the product."

Massachusetts authorities have also responded by warning parents about the social media challenge, such as TikTok, which is popular among teenagers.

Many people, including children, post videos of themselves unpacking the chips, eating the spicy chips, and then reacting to the heat. Some videos show people choking, coughing, and requesting water.

"We urge parents to discuss this with their children and advise them not to participate in this challenge," said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early in a series of posts on the X social media challenge, formerly known as Twitter. "The company's warnings say that the chips are intended for adult consumption. In other states across the country, people, including teenagers, have been hospitalized due to chip-related issues."

Reports have been coming in from across the country of people falling ill after participating in the challenge, including three students at a California middle school who were sent to the hospital. Last year, paramedics were called to a school in Minnesota when seven students fell ill after participating in the challenge.

"You can have very mild symptoms, such as burning or tingling of the lips and mouth, but there can also be more serious symptoms," said Dr. Lauren Rice, head of the pediatric emergency department at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, noting that it is an opportunity for parents, coaches, and teachers to learn about various social media challenges that can pose dangers.

"It goes back to the ingredients used in tortilla chips," she continued. "There are some spices, such as capsaicin, which is a chemical ingredient we use in things like pepper spray, and so they are very potent chemicals and can cause severe irritation. Some of the more serious symptoms we see can be things like significant abdominal pain or nausea and vomiting."

Dr. Peter Chai, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and medical toxicology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said that the chips can be dangerous under certain circumstances.

"It's entirely possible that consuming these chips with a high concentration of capsaicin can lead to death," Chai said. "It really depends on the amount of capsaicin the person was exposed to. In high doses, it can lead to fatal arrhythmias or irreversible heart damage."

Worcester police, the state's second-largest city, said in a statement that they were called to Voloby's home on Friday afternoon and found that he "was unresponsive and not breathing." He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Voloby's family and friends believe that the chips were the cause of his death, and his family has called for a ban on the chips on store shelves.