THE HOTTEST day of the year was once again seen in Abingdon as the popular Oxfordshire Chilli Festival returned, along with its infamous chilli-eating challenge.

This year's spicy celebration took over Abingdon town centre from 10am on Saturday and saw stalls from local chilli growers, restaurants and spice merchants, as well as live music from local collective Skittle Alley.

But the main attraction, as always, was the notorious chilli-eating contest on the main stage at 4pm.

The five brave/foolhardy competitors were each given a pint of milk and a sick bag, and warned if they so much as touched either it was instant disqualification.

Host Martin Bond, from The Wiltshire Chilli Farm, put the challengers through their paces starting with the tame jalapeño and working through a mouth-numbing selection.

He revealed: "You won't catch a chilli grower ever being stupid enough to take part in one of these."

By the time just two contenders were left they had arrived at the Naga chilli - so hot it carries a safety warning in supermarkets.

To the delight of the large crowd, it was Shahina Waseem who chilli-chomped her way to victory in an impressive display that sees her claim her 16th win in a row.

Despite looking like she was dreading every bite, the West Londoner has spent the last year travelling to chilli-eating contests throughout the UK and has built a fearsome reputation, winning 16 on the bounce and her first in Abingdon.

She said: "I always used to take a bottle of hot sauce with me to restaurants so for a joke one time my friends entered me in a competition and I haven't stopped since."

The super-competitive chilli queen added she was not faking her expressions of pain throughout the contest but used 'mind over matter' to succeed.

She said: "You get to a point where you're in so much pain your fingers seize up and you can't hold the chillies anymore but I am determined to win 20 competitions in a row this year and get a Guinness World Record."

Despite being beaten into second, Anthony Aitken, who bowed out in second place after struggling to hold down the Naga chilli, had nothing but praise for Ms Waseem.

He said: "I have never seen anyone able to eat chillies like me."

The 38-year-old from Abingdon had the support of the home crowd but said he just enjoyed eating the super-hot peppers 'for fun'.

It was the third outing for the chilli festival for organiser and West Hanney foodie Dawn Hutcheon, who said: "I wasn't going to run it this year but there was so much support at the last minute I decided to do it again.

"I'm really pleased with how it went and there was a great atmosphere. It's not often you see the town centre this packed on a Saturday."

This year's festival raised money for Oxfordshire Mind in memory of former chilli competitor Martin Pladdys, who died from a heart attack last year.