The Chili Pepper Arms Race Rages On
For the past few years, chili growers from all around the world have been fighting to breed the hottest chili pepper. Now, the competition is more deadly than ever with the heat being raised over 14 million Scoville units over the past three years, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In 2010, Gerald Fowler’s Naga Viper pepper was measured for 1.382 million Scoville Heat Units and named the hottest pepper grown in the Guinness World Book of Records. Only four months after the Naga Viper’s crowning, chili grower Alex de Wit and his brother created the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. with 1.464 million Scovilles, which ended up stealing the title.
Although the Butch T. holds the current title as the hottest pepper, even more potent breeds have been created. Alex and Marcel de Wit, who own the Chilli Factory in Morisset, Australia, are planning to submit a more powerful form of the Butch T. pepper to Guinness; Paul Bosland, head of New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute, claimed to break 2 million Scovilles with his new Trinidad Moruga Scorpion; Nick Moore of Dr. Burnörium’s Hot Sauce Emporium is about to unveil his Psycho Serum which has 6.4 million Scovilles; and New Jersey entrepreneur Blair Lazar released his Blair’s 16 Million Reserve with pure capsaicin crystals, which topped our list of spiciest hot sauces this year.
Considering there are peppers and sauces out there with such high potency, it might come as no surprise that ingesting these sauces can be quite dangerous.
“After 800,000 Scoville units, you've got to be careful," Alex de Wit told the Journal. "You'll pay the consequences—you'll be on the floor for hours. We've had people go to the hospital.”
Although it is rare, chili peppers have put people in the hospital. In 2012, chef Arif Ali collapsed when he tried his restaurant’s “ultimate flaming hot chicken wings” with ghost chili pepper sauce, and over 100 Fed Ex workers were hospitalized after a barrel of chili pepper extract (capsaicin) was punctured. Chili extract can burn the skin, so chili growers make sure to handle the peppers with protection.
"Once you break them open, you have to be very, very careful," Paul Bosland told the Wall Street Journal. "We put on almost a hazmat suit—full body coveralls, a breathing apparatus and a hat."
Although it can be dangerous to some and requires protection to process, chili peppers will keep getting hotter and hotter. Now, 16 million Scovilles later, the competition still rages on as we wait for the next scorching pepper to make it into the spotlight.
Skyler Bouchard is a junior writer for the Daily Meal. Follow her on twitter at @skylerbouchard.