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LOS ANGELES -- Melissa's/World Variety Produce Inc., here, has just introduced a new dried chili product that is "definitely the hottest dried chili" currently in distribution in the United States, according to Robert Schueller, director of public relations for the firm.

The product is a dried Savina Ruby Hot chili pepper, hickory-smoked and packaged in a 0.5-ounce cello pack with a header, in the "Melissa's" brand. The pepper, also known as a Red Savina Haba?ero, is a red varietal of Haba?ero that until recently held the honor of being "the hottest chili in the world" in the Guinness Book of World Records, Mr. Schueller said. Two or three years ago, the Red Savina lost its title to "the Ghost chili from Thailand, which isn't available fresh or dried here in the United States -- not yet," he said.

Most Haba?ero chilis have a rating of 200,000 to 300,000 Scoville heat units, a scale that compares the relative spicy heat levels of different types of chilis, Mr. Schueller noted. "The Savina has a searing 577,000 Scoville heat units, as it was noted in the Guinness Book of World Records." By comparison, a Jalape?o pepper generally measures 8,000-12,000 Scoville heat units.

Melissa's is "very well known for our 'Melissa's' and 'Don Enrique' lines of both fresh and dried chilis." But the dried Savina Ruby Hot is "a brand-new product," Mr. Schueller told The Produce News June 3. In fact, an official announcement about the product was not scheduled until the following week, he said.

The product information sheet describes the Savina Ruby Hot as a "Chinese- lantern shaped chili that ripens to a fiery red" and is "even hotter than the more common orange Haba?ero." It has "a wonderful fiery fruitiness that characterizes this family of chilis, with origins in [Mexico's] Yucatan Peninsula and Southern California. Savina Ruby Hots create an exciting intense burn in the back of the mouth that tingles and tantalizes the essence of heat. It adds a significant amount of heat to salsas (especially combined with fruits), soups, pastas, jerk rubs and marinades."

The company advises that the product not be merchandised where children can get their hands on the package.

"These are seriously hot," Mr. Schueller advised. "These are not chilies to mess around with."