Watch out for These Dangerous Desserts During Your Travels

Sep 9, 2018

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Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration released a warning about the dangers of eating or drinking foods prepared with liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption. In a world where people often seek out bizarre, specialty foods on their travels, it’s an alert that is especially important for adventurous epicures.

According to the FDA, novelty snacks and drinks such as so-called “nitro puffs” or “Dragon’s Breath” — a trendy dessert item found from state fairs in Florida to ice cream shops in Brooklyn — can cause life-threatening conditions. Like Dragon’s Breath, cocktails that smolder and ice cream prepared to order get their appeal from their theatrics.

Liquid nitrogen isn’t toxic, but it is freezing cold — as low as 320 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. As a result, consuming products made with liquid nitrogen “can cause severe damage to skin and internal organs … [and] inhaling the vapor … may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma,” according to the FDA.

Last summer, a man in Delhi downed a smoking cocktail made with liquid nitrogen, and burned a hole through his stomach. A few months later, a 14-year-old girl was badly burned by a cup of Dragon’s Breath in Florida. These innovative treats are entertaining (and, let’s be honest, perfect for Instagram). But there are serious risks when consuming them before the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated.

Products prepared with liquid nitrogen aren’t inherently dangerous. After all, it’s commonly used to flash freeze a number of items you’d pick up in the frozen foods section of your local supermarket. But eating (or drinking them) right after they’ve been doused with liquid nitrogen is risky at best.

If you’re interested in sampling anything prepared on the spot with liquid nitrogen, be sure to wait until it has evaporated completely before consuming. Never touch the liquid nitrogen directly (if you’re trying the infamous nitro puffs, for example, use a fork or toothpick) and in general, use caution. Even after the liquid nitrogen has evaporated, foods served immediately after its use can still be unsafe, the FDA explained, “due to the extremely low temperature.”

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