Avoid eating food or drink prepared with liquid nitrogen

Posted Sep 1, 2018 by Tim Sandle
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to consumers against eating food prepared with liquid nitrogen. This is due to the risk of internal organ damage.
A bartender making a liquid nitrogen cocktail.
A bartender making a liquid nitrogen cocktail.
JOH_9342 (CC BY 2.0)
The U.S. regulator has issued a statement which indicates that eating foods, like ice cream, cereal or cocktails, which are prepared by adding liquid nitrogen can cause serious internal injury, including organ damage. The agency says that 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."
The use of liquid nitrogen with certain foodstuffs has grown in popularity in recent years. This generally takes the form of novelty snacks, according to ABC13. Here liquid nitrogen added just before consumption in order to create the "dragon's breath" effect. For some people, after eating treats, it is considered fun to blow smoke from their noses and mouths to resemble a Smaug-like dragon. In the U.S., outlets providing this have become popular at state fairs, malls, and carnivals.
Another area of popularity is with cocktails. A popular component in cocktails at some bars and restaurants, liquid nitrogen gives a smoky effect to drinks by creating a cloud of vapor or fog. In the U.K., in 2015, a wine bar was fined £100,000 ($130,000) after teenager lost her stomach due to the effects of the liquid nitrogen.
With ice-cream the addition of liquid nitrogen to some products is functional rather than cosmetic. Liquid nitrogen is used as the primary means of freezing of ice cream, thus eliminating the need for a conventional ice cream freezer. The FDA concern here is with the extremely low temperature of the food. With cereals, there is also a growing trend in the U.S. for cereal or cheese puffs to be covered in liquid nitrogen so that they also "emit a misty or smoke-like vapor."
The FDA is additionally concerned that for those handling liquid nitrogen, such as bar tenders, there is a risk of severe damage to skin. While the FDA has issued its warning, there is no indication that a legislative ban will be put in place.