The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning the public of the potential dangers of consuming food and drink products that are prepared using liquid nitrogen.
Injuries may be experienced if the liquid nitrogen is misused or accidentally ingested.
On Aug. 30, the FDA issued a warning regarding the consumption of food and drink products that were prepared with liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption. Such products are marketed as “dragon’s breath,” “nitro puff,” or “heaven’s breath,” and may be found in malls, state or local fairs, kiosks, and food courts. These include liquid nitrogen-infused treats such as cereals or cheese puffs, and even beverages that were prepared with liquid nitrogen so as to emit a fog or mist.
Evidently, the agency has become aware of several incidences of severe and even life-threatening injuries as a result of the mishandling or consumption of said products. In some instances, people with asthma even experienced breathing difficulties as a result of inhaling the vapors released by the liquid nitrogen.
Non-toxic, But With Injury Risks
According to the agency, although liquid nitrogen is not considered toxic, it can cause severe injuries to the skin when mishandled or even to the internal organs when consumed. This is because even if the liquid nitrogen has completely evaporated, it can still maintain the extremely low temperature of the food.
Food and drink products that were infused with or prepared with liquid nitrogen long before consumption and are no longer at extremely low temperatures are no longer considered a significant risk for consumers.
Liquid nitrogen is basically just nitrogen in liquid form. It is extremely cold at about 200 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit) below zero, and is often used for cryomedicine and cryopreservation. It is an essential and invaluable tool in the preservation of early embryos, bone marrow, blood cells, sperm cells, and eggs cells, and may even be used to super-chill scalpels for cryosurgery to remove cancer cells. In dermatology, liquid nitrogen may be placed in canisters and used to freeze benign growths, cancers, and pre-cancers to damage the cells.
As mentioned, liquid nitrogen is non-toxic, and the human senses can't detect the presence of liquid nitrogen in the air. Even so, it can be considered an asphyxiant if the liquid nitrogen is dispelled at levels that displace oxygen in the air. This can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and even death if the loss of consciousness prevents self-rescue.