Six Flags Great America in Gurnee has suspended its seasonal cockroach-eating contest, in response to reports of a man's death after a similar competition at a Florida pet store.
The 32-year-old man reportedly collapsed last week after eating dozens of roaches and worms during a contest to win a python at a pet store in Deerfield Beach, according to the Associated Press. Six Flags Great America officials said they've suspended their contest, which happens weekly during its Halloween-themed Fright Fest, while the amusement park reviews the competitions nationwide.
Officials said the weekly contest attracts about 10 to 20 participants each week and an audience of roughly 50 people.
Katy Enrique, communications manager for Six Flags Great America, added that the theme park has never received reports of health problems following its contests, which began in fall 2006. "We are confident our eating contests are safe as the insects we use are raised specifically for human consumption," said a prepared statement from Six Flags Entertainment Corp.. "Insects are considered a delicacy in many cultures; however, even though this appears to be an isolated incident, we are reviewing the eating contests at our parks to ensure we maintain a safe environment for our guests."
Fright Fest runs this year through Oct. 28 and Enrique said Great America is not creating a replacement for the contest that allowed adults, ages 18 and older, to eat live adult Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The winner would have received a 2013 seasons pass and a one-day Flash Pass, which allows them jump to the front of the line on any ride in the park.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are among the largest species of cockroach and can reach 2- to 3-inches in maturity. In previous years, the competition has also included contestants eating grasshoppers, snails and silk worms that shipped to the park dead, as well as super worms and night crawlers were alive during consumption.
Patrons at Six Flags Great America were required to sign a waiver before digging in during previous contests.
And when the contest launched in 2006, officials from the Lake County Health Department cautioned would-be eaters to think twice, "due to the risk of gastrointestinal illness and allergies." Florida police are awaiting cause of death of Edward Archbold, pending an autopsy. The Associated Press reports Archbold collapsed shortly after consuming dozens of roaches and worms and was later pronounced dead at a Florida hospital. No other contestants reported medical problems after the competition, according to the Associated Press.