Indonesia is warning people not to consume liquid nitrogen after more than 20 children were injured eating a street snack known as ‘dragon’s breath’ that is at the center of a dangerous new viral video trend.
According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Health, children suffered skin burns, severe stomach pains and food poisoning after eating colorful candies.
The candies are soaked in liquid nitrogen, creating a vapor effect when eaten. They are popular with children, with dozens of children uploading clips to the short-form video app TikTok, blowing smoke out of their mouths, noses and ears, one of him showing the preparation of snacks by a street vendor The video has been viewed nearly 10 million times.
About 25 children, including two hospitalized, were injured after eating candy, said ministry director Maxi Laing Rondonou.
It’s not illegal to use liquid nitrogen to cook food. Top chefs often use steam to create theatrical effects when serving food. It is transparent, colorless, and odorless, and is widely used in medical settings and as a food freezing material.
However, it can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
“Liquid nitrogen is not only dangerous to ingest, but nitrogen gas inhaled for an extended period of time can cause severe breathing difficulties,” Maxi said.
According to the ministry, the first case was reported in July 2022, when a child from a village in East Java’s Ponorogo district suffered a cold burn on his skin after eating a snack.
More cases were reported in November and December, including a 4-year-old boy who was admitted to a hospital in the capital Jakarta with severe abdominal pain.
“Schools need to educate local children about the dangers of liquid nitrogen in food to prevent serious foodborne illness outbreaks,” Maxi said.
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In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning warning that eating foods such as ice cream, cereals, and cocktails prepared with liquid nitrogen can cause serious injury.
Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared with the addition of liquid nitrogen just prior to consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has completely evaporated due to the very low temperature of the food.
“This is a dangerous chemical compound,” said Singapore-based doctor Clarence Yeo. “It can irritate the stomach and cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Children may be particularly sensitive (to the effects) if eaten in large amounts.”
Yeo warned, “I’m not going to advise anyone to eat it.”
“You could end up in the hospital, and the worst-case scenario could be organ damage,” he said.