MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More than 100 employees at the FedEx hub in Memphis were treated at the scene after a forklift punctured a barrel of concentrated chili pepper extract. Memphis fire officials say the five-gallon container was damaged outside the building early Thursday morning and 117 employees were being evaluated and decontaminated. Authorities identified the substance as liquid capsaicin, a chili pepper component that's also an active ingredient in pepper spray. Company spokesman Chris Stanley says this batch was destined for hot sauce. [More]
The chemicals that cause the burning sensation in pepper come from a family of compounds called the capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is soluble in fats and oils but not in water. Therefore milk, ice cream and peanut butter can relieve the pain that occurs after eating hot peppers. More on the chemistry of capsaicin here and here.