Did you hear about the 2-year-old girl who suffered a seizure and died after being force-fed chili powder as a punishment?
The woman responsible is the 21-year-old girlfriend of the child’s father. She has since been charged with first-degree murder, and child abuse causing death.
Authorities have no idea why the toddler was being punished – or exactly how the chili powder was ingested. But experts say that chili powder can be incredibly dangerous – especially in large doses - and that a child should never be given any.
The main ingredient in chili powder is capsaicin – it’s an irritant that causes a burning sensation. And it can inflame sensitive tissues, like mucous membranes. If you inhale it, your airways can swell shut, causing difficulty breathing – or stop it altogether. And chili powder can be fatal in large quantities – even for adults.
But using food as punishment seems to be a new trend. There was a recent case in which another mom was charged with child abuse for "hot-saucing" her son. That’s when a parent pours hot sauce in their child’s mouth as a form of discipline or punishment. It’s happening more and more.
But whether it's hot sauce or chili powder - or even washing your child's mouth out with soap - Dr. Alanna Levine from the American Academy of Pediatrics says it's 100 percent abusive. She says abuse isn’t just leaving a mark - like with spanking or hitting a child. Force-feeding is emotional abuse. And a psychiatrist from Mount Sinai says kids can suffer acute anxiety from these types of punishments – which can lead to long-term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s why hot-saucing is legally considered abuse in Virginia.
And parenting experts all agree - forcing your child to eat anything to the point of pain is not discipline, it’s torture.