The Lookout

World’s hottest pepper is ‘hot enough to strip paint’

The Lookout

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AP070209047201

Fiery food mavens seeking to one-up each other now have to gear up for a whole new test of culinary bravado: the world's hottest chili pepper.

Yes, the Naga Viper, the latest claimant to the world's-hottest-pepper crown, outdistances its predecessor, the Bhut Jolokia, or  "ghost chili," by more than 300,000 points on the famous Scoville scale of tongue-scorching chili hotness. Researchers at Warwick University testing the Naga Viper found that it measures 1,359,000 on the Scoville scale, which rates heat by tracking the presence of a chemical compound. In comparison, most varieties of jalapeño peppers measure in the 2,500 to 5,000 range -- milder than the Naga Viper by a factor of 270.

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You might think the Naga Viper would hail from some part of the world with a strong demand for spicy food, such as India or Mexico. But the new pepper is actually the handiwork of Gerald Fowler, a British chili farmer and pub owner, who crossed three of the hottest peppers known to man -- including the Bhut Jolokia -- to create his Frankenstein-monster chili.

"It's painful to eat," Fowler told the Daily Mail. "It's hot enough to strip paint." Indeed, the Daily Mail reports that defense researchers are already investigating the pepper's potential uses as a weapon.

But Fowler -- who makes customers sign a waiver declaring that they're of sound mind and body before trying a Naga Viper-based curry -- insists that consuming the fiery chili does the body good.

"It numbs your tongue, then burns all the way down," he told the paper. "It can last an hour, and you just don't want to talk to anyone or do anything. But it's a marvelous endorphin rush. It makes you feel great."

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A member of the Clifton Chili Club -- a group of Brits who travel around sampling chilis -- decided to try one of Fowler's Naga Vipers on camera. You can watch his less-than-pleasurable experience here.

(Photo of Bhut Jolokia, the previous holder of the hottest pepper in the world title: AP/New Mexico State University)

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