The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about consuming food and beverage products as wide-ranging as ice cream, cheese puffs, cereal, and even cocktails. The common denominator that prompted the FDA warning? Liquid nitrogen.
FDA regulators have become aware of several cases of life-threatening cases involving products including ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, a non-toxic chemical element that is able to maintain an extremely low temperature. As such, it can cause severe skin and internal organ damage if handled improperly. Inhaling the vapor it releases can also cause difficult breathing, especially for individuals with asthma, the FDA warns.
The agency advises that “consumers to avoid eating, drinking, or handling foods prepared using liquid nitrogen at point of sale and immediately before consumption, due to risk of injury,” according to the safety alert.
A number of new products that use liquid nitrogen have hit the market in recent years, including snack products and frozen desserts with names like “Dragon’s Breath” and “nitro puff.” These seem to have prompted the new advisory, though for a while now, liquid nitrogen as a cosmetic additive has become increasingly common in some upscale restaurants and bars. For example, some bartenders use the chemical to make cocktails that give off their own tiny, foggy microclimate, at least for a few minutes. The effects of improperly ingesting liquid nitrogen vapor can be much longer-lasting, though. Heed the warning and use caution.