The Hot-Chip Challenge Schools Are Banning Left And Right

Paqui Tortilla Chips is a Texas-based brand that claims to make the spiciest chips in America, if not the world (via TIME). On any given day, snackers can score flavors like Fiery Chili Limón, Zesty Salsa Verde, and Jalapeño Tropicale, all of which pack in a respectable amount of Scoville heat units. But Paqui's real claim to fame is its One Chip Challenge: a recurring feat that dares bold snackers to eat an especially fiery, individually packaged chip made with the most flaming-hot peppers under the sun. In 2022, the chip in question features a deadly combination of the world's hottest new pepper — the Carolina Reaper — and the volcanically hot Scorpion Pepper.

If you've ever gone overboard on the spice scale and struggled to put out the fire, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that the One Chip Challenge has yielded some highly unpleasant reactions. On its website, Paqui warns that the challenge is both "eye-watering" and "curse-inducing" and that adults should keep the product "out of reach of children." Based on a string of incidents among high schoolers who have participated in the challenge this year, the brand might be adding a more detailed age-restriction clause to that warning.

Paqui One's Chip Challenge is sending teens to the ER

Earlier this year in late January, Newsweek reported that three California high schoolers were hospitalized after attempting Paqui's One Chip Challenge. "Each student who has taken part has had a similar reaction, struggling to breathe and catch their breath," the school's principal told the publication, who added that other students were sent home or to the ER after "vomiting on themselves." 

That was eight months ago, which is evidently enough time for many TikTok-active students to forget about the effects of Carolina Reaper on their fragile teen digestive systems. According to Today, several school districts (including one in Tyler, Texas) are banning students from participating in the 2022 challenge in the wake of further hospitalizations. Pediatrician Brett Christiansen told Today that one of the ingredients in the 2022 One Chip Challenge can also be found in pepper spray. (Per Medical News Today, pepper spray's main ingredient is capsaicin, a compound that gives chili peppers their spice.) "If it was to get into the eyes or nose, it could result in a serious burning sensation," he said, adding that accidental inhalation of the spice could lead to bronchospasm or trigger asthma attacks. 

To its credit, the disclaimer on Paqui's One Chip Challenge boxes (which are appropriately shaped like coffins) notes that the product should not be consumed by "minors" or "individuals who are sensitive to spicy foods."