The XXX Hot Chilli Burger is not messing around. Burger Off, the U.K. restaurant that serves it, is so serious about the heat that customers must sign a health waiver before ordering it off the menu. That might be enough to deter most adventurous eaters—eating something described as being "hotter than pepper spray" doesn't exactly sound like a fun dining experience—but two British journalists recently took the challenge to try the world's spiciest hamburger. And the results were not good.
The burger is made with Indian piri piri chili sauce, which is a fiery 7 to 9 million on the Scoville scale, the metric used to measure spicy heat in food. (For comparison, the pepper spray you could use to down a bear is only around 5 million SHU—Scoville heat units—and the Tabasco you sprinkle on your eggs is a mere 2,500 to 5,000 SHU.) One bite, and both reporters had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance, according to reports.
“It was hard to walk," Ruari Barratt reported in The Argus, the news outlet both men work for. "I needed to drink milk to neutralize the burning, which was hard because I was hyperventilating so much my hands had seized up."
Aaron Hendy fared even worse. “I was in so much pain I was telling people I felt like I was dying,” he said. On-lookers say his eyes rolled back in his head and his body started shaking. He adds that he lost feeling in his extremities as well as had excruciating stomach pain.
Both men were taken for treatment at a hospital. “It’s embarrassing, but it felt that bad," Hendy says.
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William Katkov, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, says that while he's sure it was excruciatingly painful and he didn't examine the men, there likely was no physical harm done. "The medical consensus is that spicy foods cannot cause ulcers or other damage to the stomach lining," he says, "but they certainly can cause a great deal of distress."
Nick Gambardella, the owner of Burger Off, wasn't surprised at the reporters' reactions, as this type of thing has happened before. “I spend about as much time convincing people not to try one as I do selling them. I tell people it will ruin their weekend," he told The Argus. In addition to the waiver, he says he won't sell the XXX to anyone under 18 or who's been drinking. The £3.99 ($6.83) price tag doesn't include the cost of ambulance rides, medical treatment, or any mental distress incurred.
The amount of spicy food one can handle varies from person to person, likely due to a genetic effect. So how do you know how much is too much? "If it hurts, stop eating it," Katkov says, adding that eating food that is too spicy can cause vomiting and nausea in addition to the pain.
Hendy has one piece of advice for anyone still considering the XXX: "If you’re thinking of trying this burger for a dare, just don’t."
We'll take his word for it!