Ghost pepper rips hole in man’s esophagus during “food challenge”

Ghost Pepper (Source: Vikramjit Kakati/Wikicommons)

(RNN) – The ghost pepper is well known to any who scour the internet. 

Their 1 million Scoville heat units – a scale made particularly for rating the spiciness of chili peppers – are the stuff of YouTube legend. There are about426,000 results for the search term, most of which involve extreme abdominal pain and adults crying. 

But what’s lost in the Freudian amounts of sadism and masochism is that ghost peppers, known in India as bhut jolokia, are actually dangerous.

Take for instance a recent entry in the Journal of Emergency Medicine in which a 47-year-old man tore a hole in his esophagus because he dared to eat ghost pepper puree. 

The unnamed subject in the case study was eating a hamburger with the puree as part of a spicy food challenge. Was he trying to be a legend among his friends? Trying to immortalize himself on a plaque at a local eatery or receive a free meal? It’s anyone’s guess, but he instead ended up in the emergency room after retching himself to a potentially fatal rupture of his esophagus. 

He remained at the hospital for 23 days, 17 of which he could not tolerate liquids. 

It’s good news he’s OK, but the researchers said it’s a reminder that food challenges, whether for glory or peer pressure, can oftentimes be dangerous. There’s a reason people don’t normally eat the stuff.

“Food challenges have become common among social media, including the infamous cinnamon challenge,” the researchers said. “This case serves as an important reminder of a potentially life-threatening surgical emergency that was initially interpreted as discomfort after a large spicy meal.”