Lois Wolobah got a call Friday from the nurse at her son’s high school in Worcester, Mass. Harris, a sophomore, had fainted after eating a tortilla chip. When Wolobah got to the high school, her son showed her an image on his phone of what made him sick — a single “extremely hot tortilla chip” encrusted with seasoning from some of the spiciest chile peppers in the world, packaged in a coffin-shaped box emblazoned with a snake slithering through the eye of a skull.
A few hours later, Wolobah passed out at home, Lois and her husband, Amos, told WBZ. He was taken to an emergency room, where he died.
Wolobah and her husband are blaming the chip for their son’s death and pushing for the product to be banned, they told the TV station. The state medical examiner is investigating the boy’s death and, while his autopsy has been completed, the office does not expect to determine a cause of death for weeks, Tim McGuirk, spokesperson for the state executive office of public safety and security, told The Washington Post in an email.
Paqui, which is owned by Austin-based Amplify Snack Brands, did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. But in a statement, a spokeswoman with the Hershey Company, which owns Amplify, said that company officials were “deeply saddened by the news report and express our condolences to the family.”
On Wednesday, Paqui’s website for the “One Chip Challenge” still advertised the product with a label warning people to keep the chip away from children, not to eat it if they’re sensitive to spicy foods, to wash their hands after touching the chip, and to seek medical attention if they faint, feel nauseous or have trouble breathing.
But earlier Wednesday, the company removed language challenging people to hold off as long as possible after consuming the chip before eating or drinking anything to relieve the burning. The page had asked “How long can you last before you spiral out?” and provided a ranking system ranging from one minute for those who are “harmless” up to an hour, which was reserved for an “apex predator.”
Later on Wednesday, options to buy the chip online and locate stores that sold them had disappeared.