Indonesia warns people against consuming liquid nitrogen after more than 20 children were injured eating a street snack known as ‘dragon’s breath’ which is at the center of a new video trend dangerous virus.
Children have suffered burns to their skin, severe stomach pains and food poisoning after consuming the colorful candies, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Health, which is urging parents, teachers and local health authorities to be vigilant.
The candies are soaked in liquid nitrogen to create a vapor effect when eaten. They’re popular with kids, dozens of whom have uploaded clips to short-form video app TikTok showing them blowing the vapors from their mouths, noses and ears. A video showing the preparation of the snack by a street vendor has been viewed nearly 10 million times.
About 25 children were injured while consuming the sweets, two of whom were hospitalized, said the ministry’s director general, Maxi Rein Rondonuwu. No deaths have been reported.
The use of liquid nitrogen in food preparation is not illegal. Top chefs often use steamers to create theatrical effects when serving dishes. It is clear, colorless, and odorless, and commonly used in medical settings and as an ingredient for freezing foods.
However, when used incorrectly, it can be dangerous.
“Liquid nitrogen is not only dangerous when consumed, it can cause severe breathing difficulties from nitrogen vapors that are inhaled for a long time,” Maxi said.
The first case was reported in July 2022, according to the ministry, when a child in a village in Ponorogo Regency in East Java suffered cold burns to his skin after eating the snack.
Other cases were reported in November and December, including a 4-year-old boy who was admitted to hospital in the capital Jakarta with severe stomach pain.
“Schools need to educate children in the community about the dangers of liquid nitrogen in food (to) prevent more cases of serious food poisoning,” Maxi said.
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In 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released security alerts warning that serious injury could result from eating foods like ice cream, cereal or cocktails made with liquid nitrogen.
“Injuries have occurred when handling or consuming products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has completely evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food,” the FDA said.
“This is a dangerous chemical compound,” said Clarence Yeo, a Singapore-based doctor. “It irritates the stomach and can cause burning in the mouth and esophagus. Children would be particularly sensitive to (its effects) if it is consumed in large quantities.
Yeo warned that he “wouldn’t advise anyone to eat it.”
“You could end up in the hospital and the worst case scenario could be organ damage,” he said.