The US Food and Drug Administration issued a safety alert Thursday, warning consumers about the potential dangers of eating food prepared with liquid nitrogen.
The FDA said serious injury, including internal organ damage, can result from eating foods such as ice cream, cereal or cocktails prepared by adding liquid nitrogen at the point of sale and eating it shortly thereafter.
“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”
In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”
A recent trend has taken hold in parts of the country where cereal or cheese puffs are covered in liquid nitrogen and “emit a misty or smoke-like vapor.” Shortly after eating the treats, people blow smoke out of their noses and mouths to look like a dragon. The treats, often called dragon’s breath, heaven’s breath or nitro puff, are popular at state fairs, carnivals, mall kiosks and some ice cream parlors, the FDA said.
The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.
“The FDA is aware of increased reports of injuries associate with foods prepared with liquid nitrogen and is working with stakeholders to better understand the use of liquid nitrogen in foods at retail food establishments,” FDA spokesman Peter Cassell said in a written statement.
“Although liquid nitrogen is nontoxic and is currently used in medical settings and as an ingredient to prepare some food products, liquid nitrogen can freeze foods resulting in extremely low temperatures. This temperature can present risk of injury to consumers. Further, applying liquid nitrogen immediately prior to consumption increases the risk of accidental ingestion or direct contact with liquid nitrogen because it does not provide enough time for the liquid nitrogen to fully evaporate.”