A popular TikTok and social media trend dubbed the “One Chip Challenge” has swept the nation, leaving a slew of hospitalizations in its wake.
The trend and the Paqui brand chip first became prominent in 2016, but the challenge has regained steam on TikTok in the past month among younger and younger users.
The directions are simple: “Eat the entire chip. Wait as long as possible before drinking or eating anything,” Paqui’s website states.
The chip looks like a dark blue Dorito. However, it contains spices from the two hottest peppers in the world, the Carolina Reaper and the Scorpion, as well as capsaicin.
Capsaicin is “the same ingredient found in pepper spray,” said Brett Christiansen, M.D., a pediatrician at Marshall Hospital and the Marshall Pediatric Clinic in Placerville, California, to TODAY.
Christiansen said, “Not only do they (the chips) cause a burning sensation in the mouth when ingested, but they may also do so in the throat, esophagus, stomach, lower gastrointestinal tract, and even on the way out.”
For some, the spicy chip can cause gastrointestinal inflammation or even an asthma attack. As a result, the Paqui chip sports a hefty warning label along the edge of its coffin-shaped red box.
Taylor Adams wrote in a Dallas Observer article about his experience eating the chip in a bid to highlight a Lovers Lane United Methodist Church campaign back in 2017.
Adams claimed that the chip tasted horrible. Worse, he said, the spice settled in slowly, and he eventually got horrible stomach cramps.
“I felt as if I was going to spend the rest of the workday lying on the couch in my office,” Adams recounted.
An adult, Adams was able to endure the uncomfortable yet mild symptoms. However, children are especially susceptible to the effects of the spicy chip.
In 2021, Tyler ISD had a student hospitalized after consuming the chip. Pearland ISD near Houston has also dealt with the dangerous chip in the past; they sent a message to parents alerting them of the dangers associated with the challenge.
Despite the hospitalizations of students in Texas schools, a spokesperson for Paqui claimed the challenge “can be fun for those who understand what they are taking on.”
Paqui takes safety “very seriously,” the spokesperson said, and works hard to “ensure [its] products are clearly labeled with allergen and safety information.”
Paqui’s hot chip is not the first dangerous viral trend to appeal to minors. A decade ago, the “Cinnamon Challenge” saw teenagers inhaling powdered cinnamon and the “Tide Pod Challenge” had them ingesting poisonous chemicals.