The "One Chip Challenge" – a ridiculous exercise in pain endurance – where people are dared to eat Paqui brand chips "flavored" with increasingly hot peppers may have been the cause of death of a 14-year-old boy who ate a single chip. But Paqui tries to portray their product as "healthy," for example, GMO-and-preservative free. What a bunch of BS.
"At Paqui we believe that REAL heat comes from using REAL peppers, which is why our chips are:-Non-GMO-No artificial ingredients, flavors or preservatives-Gluten-Free-Vegan-Kosher."
Not anymore. The real heat is now going to come from trial lawyers. Although I'm not a big fan of product lawsuits (talcum powder, glyphosate, opioid manufacturers, others without merit...) Paqui (1) has earned whatever is going to happen to them. (Note: At this time, the cause of death of a 14-year-old boy who died after participating in the One Chip Challenge (2) has not been determined, but illness and hospitalizations from "One Chip Challenge" are not hard to find.)
Sorry to inform you, Paqui promotion guys, but you can't have your chips and eat them too. The company has some damn nerve portraying its "macho snack" as "healthy" while at the same time latching on to TikTok mania, which at this time has 2 billion One Chip Challenge views (3) – one-quarter of the number of people on earth. You can add at least 1 billion more views from YouTube. One (of many) examples of the company's sleazy promotion included using the hashtag #onechipchallenge and asking, “How long can you last before you spiral out?” Nice.
The British ad above from 2022 is especially damning. Note the yellow box [my emphasis]: "The straight-from-hell chip now turns your tongue blue as a badge of honor to prove you completed the challenge!" And let's not forget what's below it, highlighted by the red line: " How many can you eat in 1 sitting?"
Let's also add this to the fire:
"Eat the entire chip. Wait as long as possible before drinking or eating anything... Post your reaction on social media with #onechipchallenge and mention @paquichips."
Promotion formerly found on Paqui's website
It is especially galling that Paqui tries to portray its products as healthy. All the buzzwords are present: GMO-free, vegan, no preservatives, artificial flavors, or gluten. They even make the stuff Kosher, presumably to attract teenagers from religious Jewish families, who wouldn't be able to eat the stupid chips otherwise (4). The hypocrisy of taking advantage of the massive popularity of TikTok challenges, aimed at teens, while at the same time making ridiculous "health" claims is mind-boggling.
ACSH has debunked unfounded fears of GM foods, preservatives, and artificial flavors, but there's a big difference here. When you overspend at Whole Foods because of clever fear-based marketing, your wallet might get hurt, but their GM-free (you name it) won't harm you. But despite all the nonsense health claims on the package, the Paqui chips can. Capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot, is no more than a chemical developed by plants as a defense system. Its mechanism of action is binding to TRPV1 (Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid-1) receptors, which are involved with the perception of several senses, including pain and heat. It is but one of many plants on earth that make their own poisons.
Here is a very short list of a few poisonous chemicals used by other plants as defense mechanisms and their impact on human health:
- Ciguatoxins (algae - neurotoxin)
- Mycotoxins (fungus, mushrooms - neurotoxins)
- Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (multiple plants, liver toxin)
- Indole alkaloids (multiple plants - cellular toxins, neurotoxins, carcinogens)
- Digitalis (Foxglove, heart toxicity)
A "badge of honor?"
Although capsaicin is not nearly as toxic as the chemicals listed above, it nonetheless makes it onto the National Capital Poison Center's website:
"People who eat capsaicin-containing products, including tortilla chips featured in the Paqui One Chip Challenge, often experience mouth irritation, pain, or burning, along with intestinal discomfort. Capsaicin consumption can also cause more serious health problems, including shortness of breath, allergic reactions, chest pain, heart palpitations, and even heart attacks or strokes. Consumption of larger amounts of capsaicin can also cause repeated vomiting that can lead to life-threatening esophageal damage."
Rhetorical question: Is it a good idea to spray Mace Brand PepperGuard Maximum Strength Pepper Spray Personal Model on your face? Or down your throat? After all, it's merely capsaicin and non-GMO.
Paqui "improved" its 2023 product:
Not content with merely ghastly hot peppers Paqui used the a new breed by Smoking Ed Currie at Puckerbutt Pepper Company.
The following promo remains on a site called Mikey V's Foods.
THE ONE CHIP CHALLENGE BITES BACK! (2023) AND YOU'VE NEVER EXPERIENCED ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE! This year's 2023 chip is spicy , no filler with not just one but two terrifying peppers. This year's vicious chip contains the Carolina Reaper Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper for a truly twisted and HEATED experience.
Where did these new peppers come from?
The Carolina Reaper, the world's hottest pepper is a hybrid chili pepper that was created through selective breeding of a Pakistani Naga pepper with a Red Habanero. After several generations, the result was a pepper that is 200 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. A fine accomplishment indeed.
A Carolina Reaper pepper. Does this really look like something you ought to eat? Photo: Amazon
Just in case the world's hottest pepper wasn't "hot enough," the company added the Naga Viper Pepper, the world's hottest pepper as of 2011, to the mix. Some damn fine research, if you ask me.
Singing a different tune
Visit the Paqui website now, and you'll get a very different message (4):
Too hot, too little, too late.
Can you bet all your chips on whether Paqui is consulting lawyers as you read this? I say yes. After all, the company will no doubt be peppered with questions in what I'm guessing will be multiple servings of product liability lawsuits, with Hershey's probably on the hot seat.
(1) Paqui chips are made by Amplify Snack Brands, a subsidiary of the Hershey Company.
(2) Paqui began its One Chip Challenge in 2016. The challenge? Eat one chip without drinking water or eating any additional food afterward. In subsequent years, hotter and hotter peppers have been substituted because... I have no idea.
(3) Two billion views does not mean that two billion people tried the challenge. This is the number of people who "tuned in" to watch others vomit. It is not possible to ascertain how many people actually did it.
(4) Think about how utterly insane this is, especially since one of the reasons for Kosher laws was for food safety.
(5) The warning appeared on the label before the recall. But now it's a bit more direct. When you go to the Paqui website this is what you will see.