Food & Drink

FDA warning says some liquid nitrogen drinks and desserts can kill you or damage organs

Dragon’s Breath looks cool, but could be dangerous

Dragon's Breath is made by soaking flavored cereal in liquid nitrogen. It was created by an ice cream shop in California in 2017 and has become a popular fair and mall food. Liquid nitrogen could cause severe damage if ingested.
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Dragon's Breath is made by soaking flavored cereal in liquid nitrogen. It was created by an ice cream shop in California in 2017 and has become a popular fair and mall food. Liquid nitrogen could cause severe damage if ingested.

The FDA’s warning about liquid nitrogen treats popular with kids and more than a few adults can be stated in a Suessian sound: not at the mall, not at the fair, not if it’s made in front of your face anywhere.

Food and drinks made with liquid nitrogen at the “point of sale,” such as kiosks, food courts and fair stands, were the subject of the FDA’s recent warning.

While delivering instant chilling and creating a cool visual smoke-like effect around consumables, -- thus the “Dragon’s Breath” and similar nicknames -- liquid nitrogen, the FDA says, “can cause severe damage to skin and internal organs if mishandled or accidentally ingested due to the extremely low temperatures it can maintain.

“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 warning says. “There has also been a report of difficulty breathing after inhaling the vapor released by liquid nitrogen when added immediately before consumption. 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.”

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A sweet treat made with liquid nitrogen FDA

This echoes what British scientists told the BBC in 2012 after, the network reported, a teenager had her stomach removed after downing a liquid nitrogen drink. University of Bristol School of Physics Professor Peter Barnham said eating or drinking liquid nitrogen would be as foolish as drinking boiling water or oil and people should make sure all the liquid nitro was evaporated before eating anything made with it.

Thus the difference, the FDA says, between something liquid nitro food or drink handed to you at a kiosk and something previously made well before.

“In general, other foods treated with liquid nitrogen prior to the point of sale and before consumption, for example some frozen confections, are treated in such a way that results in the complete evaporation of liquid nitrogen before reaching the consumer and are no longer at an extremely low temperature, and therefore do not pose a significant risk of injury.”

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