By Juan Cocina
Before we jump into it, what exactly is a “Ghost pepper”? Well, its real name is “Bhut jolokia,” a pepper cultivated in Indian states. For comparison, the pepper is 400 times hotter than Tabasco Original Hot Sauce, and even won the 2007 Guinness World Record for the World’s Hottest Chili Pepper. Although it was surpassed as the “hottest pepper” in 2011, it is still rated at more than 1 million scoville units! As Louisiana pepper grower Ronald Primeaux describes it, “Your body thinks it’s going to die.” This pepper lead to a viral internet food challenge on YouTube. It is known as the “Ghost pepper challenge,” in which people film themselves eating and swallowing the chili pepper. However, there was one recent incident in which it went horribly wrong.
An unnamed, 47 year old man attempted a super-spicy feat – eating a hamburger served with a ghost pepper puree as a challenge – and to put it frankly, it tore a hole in his esophagus. To try and quench the heat, the man drank 6 glasses of water. This did not only induce vomiting, it also caused awful abdominal pains. He instantly dialed for emergency help and was rushed to the hospital. After the doctors moved him to the operating room, they discovered a “2.5-cm tear in the distal esophagus,” or about a one inch tear. The force of the vomiting and retching led to a rare diagnosis of Boerhaave’s syndrome; these spontaneous tears in the esophagus can be fatal if they are not diagnosed and treated.
Challenges that involve food, such as peppers or even the infamous cinnamon challenge, are becoming more and more popular online. It is important to remember the dangers of eating food that our body may not be able to handle, especially if one is not accustomed to eating certain foods. As for the 47 year old man, he was released from the hospital 23 days after the incident with a gastric tube, and a load of regret.