A Hershey Company subsidiary stated that it was withholding the extremely spicy chip "out of an abundance of caution" after the death of a teenager, the family of which stated that he had died after eating one of the chips.
According to a statement released by the company on Thursday, the tortilla chip manufacturer that issued a challenge to customers to ingest a single chip produced with two of the hottest peppers in the world has decided to remove the product from retail shelves. This decision was made after the death of a teenager, whose family stated that they believed he had died as a result of swallowing the chip.
The company, which is a subsidiary of the Hershey Company, issued a statement on its website that read, "The Paqui One Chip Challenge is intended for adults only, with clear and prominent labeling highlighting the chip is not for children" or any other sensitive groups. "A growing number of adolescents and other individuals are ignoring these warnings, which is very concerning."
As a consequence of this, the firm announced that it was collaborating with merchants to remove the product from store shelves "out of an abundance of caution."
Paqui also stated that it would be willing to issue refunds for the product, which had a price tag of approximately $9.99 for one serving. Hershey purchased Amplify Snack Brands in 2017 for approximately $1.6 billion, and Paqui chips are produced by that company.
Customers were challenged on the label that was affixed to the box in the style of a coffin to wait as long as they could after consuming the chip before eating or drinking anything else, and then to share their responses on social media. Following consumption of the chip, participants in this year's challenge can be seen in a number of films pleading for liquids such as water or milk and stuffing their faces with ice cream.
The chip that was part of the challenge was constructed with the Carolina Reaper, which has been measured at more than two million Scoville heat units, the scale that is used to quantify how hot peppers are, and the Naga Viper, which has been measured at just under 1.4 million Scoville units. Together, these two peppers brought the chip's total Scoville heat level to more than two million. In general, jalapeo peppers are ranked at between 2,000 and 8,000 units for their level of heat.
His family reported that the chip was one of the final things that Harris Wolobah, who was 14, consumed before he passed away. His mother, Lois Wolobah, reported that the school in Worcester, Massachusetts, where her son attends, called her last Friday to inform her that her son was ill. Harris had to be helped into the school because she was doubled over in pain from her stomach. After another two hours or so, he was brought to the hospital, but he did not survive his time there.
Although it was not immediately evident what caused his death, Ms. Wolobah told The New York Times that she suspected the chip had something to do with it. She also stated that the cause of his death was not immediately clear. According to a representative for the Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, it could take as long as a month and a half before the results of the autopsy are made public.
Ms. Wolobah stated earlier this week in an interview that she wished for "there to be an awareness for parents to know that it's not safe." "I just want there to be an awareness for parents to know that it's not safe," she said.
After eating the chip, a number of individuals who have tried it have reported to The Times that they have suffered from excruciating stomach problems.
Kim Metcalfe, a spokeswoman for Paqui, stated that the company was "deeply saddened" by the news of Harris's passing and that they would like to "express our condolences to the family."
Ms. Metcalfe issued the following statement in response to the news: "We care about all of our consumers and have made the decision to remove the product from shelves." On the packaging of the product, it is stated quite clearly that it should not be given to youngsters or anybody who has a sensitivity to foods that are hot, who has food allergies, who is pregnant, or who has underlying health concerns.
It was brought to everyone's attention by Ms. Metcalfe that the removal of the chip was not a "recall," but rather a "voluntary retrieval."
Up until Tuesday, promotional materials for the challenge asked those who took part, "How long can you last before you spiral out?" and awarded participants with different ranks based on how much longer they could go without consuming something that might provide them with relief. By Wednesday, that particular language had been taken down from the website. By Thursday, the only things that were left on the website for the challenge were the updated statement from the company, the original warning label, and a reduced frequently asked questions section.
The chip's package included a warning label that instructed parents to store the chip in a secure location that was out of the reach of children. People who are pregnant, have medical issues, are sensitive or allergic to spicy foods, peppers, nightshade plants, or capsaicin, the component in chili peppers that is responsible for burning and irritation, should also avoid the chip. Capsaicin is responsible for the burning and irritation that chili peppers cause.