California Man Sets New Record for Eating the World's Hottest Peppers

Gregory Foster downed three Carolina Reaper peppers in under nine seconds, according to Guinness World Records.

Carolina Reaper peppers
Photo: Nathanael Boarer / Shutterstock

You might want to grab a tall glass of ice water before you read this. Oh, and maybe a gallon of milk. And someone else's pain tolerance. A San Diego man recently set a new Guinness World Record for eating three Carolina Reaper peppers, somehow swallowing every blistering bite in 8.72 seconds.

According to Guinness, Gregory Foster just did this "as a personal challenge." And not only that, it took him two tries to break the existing record, so he ate six Carolina Reapers that afternoon. The entire spectacle took place at San Diego's Seaport Shopping Center, and it was certified by some "randomly approached" local residents who may or may not have been concerned that Foster's esophagus was going to explode.

The spice-loving Californian was disqualified on his first attempt, because he hadn't completely swallowed the peppers before the time ran out, but he managed to successfully (and speedily) down three more peppers shortly afterward. Foster's 8.72 second achievement beat Canadian Mike Jack's previous World Record by a full second. (And Jack's then-record 9.72 was more than a second faster than the previous record holder's 10.95 second mark.)

In case you're doubting the intensity of a food with the word "Reaper" in its name, the Carolina Reaper has its own Guinness World Record as the world's hottest pepper. It has an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), compared to a jalapeño's comparatively modest 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. (Foster once described eating a Carolina Reaper as "like eating a bowl of lava" and "next-level pain.")

Guinness World Record winner Gregory Foster
Courtesy of Guinness World Records

Foster, who also owns a hot sauce company, credited his training sessions with allowing him to roast the former record. "In practicing for an attempt like this, it is more about mechanics and muscle memory, so I time myself eating small sweet peppers to get the chewing and swallowing down to automatic responses," he told Guinness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn't Foster's first pepper-related Guinness World Record. In 2016, he set a record for the most Carolina Reapers eaten in one minute, downing 120 grams (4.23 ounces) of peppers in 60 seconds. He had a much slimmer margin of victory that time, beating the existing record by a single scorching gram.

And in October 2020, Foster attempted to eat 123 Carolina Reapers in a single sitting, all to reach the top of the leaderboard in the League of Fire's Reaper Challenge. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Foster downed 44 peppers before he gave in (and threw up). "I thought I had a good pace there, and your body just tells you differently," he told the outlet. "What I've learned throughout eating peppers like this is don't ignore what your body's telling you."

The current leader of the League of Fire's Reaper Challenge, an Australian named Greg "Iron Guts" Barlow, somehow managed to eat 160 Carolina Reapers, which is an unbelievable 38 peppers more than the second place challenger. That's one unofficial record that may not be broken — and if it is, we're not sure we even have the stomach to watch.

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