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    Teen’s death after eating a single chip highlights risks of ultra-spicy foods / ArsTechnica · Friday, 8 September - 22:16

Teen’s death after eating a single chip highlights risks of ultra-spicy foods

Enlarge (credit: Sarah Dussault/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images )

Harris Wolobah, a healthy 14-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, tragically died last Friday, hours after eating a single ultra-spicy tortilla chip seasoned with two of the hottest peppers in the world.

The teen's mother, Lois Wolobah, reportedly picked up her son from school that day after getting a call from the nurse that he was sick. She arrived to see him clutching his stomach and took him home. About two hours later, he lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital, where he died.

The teen had told his mother that he had eaten a Paqui chip—The 2023 Paqui One Chip Challenge chip, to be exact. Each chip is sold individually, wrapped in a foil pouch and packaged in a coffin-shaped box adorned with a skull, snakes, and a Grim Reaper. The box contains the challenge rules, which dare consumers to eat the whole chip and "wait as long as possible before drinking or eating anything"—and, of course, post reactions on social media.

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    Just how hot is that pepper? New chili-shaped portable device could tell you / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 22 October, 2020 - 22:04 · 1 minute

Seeds spill out of a trio of hot peppers in a skillet.

Enlarge / There could soon be an easier way to tell how hot that chili pepper is. (credit: Azman Mohamad / EyeEm via Getty Images )

Capsaicin is the compound responsible for determining just how hot a variety of chili pepper will be; the higher the capsaicin levels, the hotter the pepper. There are several methods for quantifying just how much capsaicin is present in a pepper—its "pungency"—but they are either too time-consuming, too costly, or require special instruments, making them less than ideal for widespread use.

Now a team of scientists from Prince of Songkla University in Thailand has developed a simple, portable sensor device that can connect to a smartphone to show how much capsaicin is contained in a given chili pepper sample, according to a new paper in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials. Bonus: the device is whimsically shaped just like a red-hot chili pepper.

An American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville invented his eponymous Scoville scale for assessing the relative hotness of chili peppers back in 1912. That testing process involves dissolving a precise amount of dried pepper in alcohol so as to extract the capsaicinoids. The capsaicinoids are then diluted in sugar water. A panel of five trained tasters then tastes multiple samples with decreasing concentrations of capsaicinoids until at least three of them can no longer detect the heat in a given sample. The hotness of the pepper is then rated according to its Scoville heat units (SHU).

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