The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert on Aug. 30, advising against consuming liquid nitrogen prepared foods like the popular Dragon’s Breath treat commonly available in malls.
The alert advises against eating foods prepared with liquid nitrogen at the point of sale. The wafting mists of the liquid nitrogen can cause damage to the human body if inhaled or ingested, although the substance itself is non-toxic. The damage occurs from the extremely cold temperatures that are key to the fascinating presentation of foods like dragon’s breath, according to the FDA alert.
The snack is often seen at malls in kiosks. A smoky mist created by the cold liquid nitrogen floats out of a container of bright, multicolored cereal balls or other crunchy treats. Last year a child in South Korea burned a hole in his stomach after eating the snack, and then gulping down the leftover nitrogen, still in liquid form, left at the bottom of the container, The Korea Times reported.
Some bars also serve drinks prepared with liquid nitrogen, giving them a swirling, mystical fog. The FDA also recommends against these. Injury can still occur once the liquid nitrogen has evaporated from a food or drink product due to the extremely cold temperature left by the liquid nitrogen infusion.
The FDA does not warn against all ways of preparing a product with liquid nitrogen. Cold sweets that are prepared with liquid nitrogen during processing are generally fine. The liquid nitrogen is given a chance to fully evaporate and the product temperature has already risen by the time it is sold for consumption.
According to The Straits Times, dragon’s breath started to appear in the nighttime markets of South Korea and the Philippines in 2015. The popularity of the snack exploded after U.S.-based vendor Chocolate Chair started selling the snack in Los Angeles. A burst of excitement around the food trend soon spread through social media, and more vendors started offering the smokey, cold, sweet treat.
A vendor from Singapore said the snack is “the most Instagram-able street food in the world right now,” in an article from last year. She also remarked how the popularity has little to do with the snack’s taste.
“While the dessert doesn’t have much flavor, most diners are after taking photos of the dessert and playing with their cold breath.”
A Google search for “dragon’s breath” brings up numerous videos showing people blowing smoke out of their mouths and nose after consuming the dessert. In some cases, they show people getting injured in the process. Inside Edition showed a video of a man burning his mouth consuming dragon’s breath.
“I stuck my finger in my mouth and there was blood on my hands,” Lane Mattison told Inside Edition. “For about three weeks, I was limited in what I could eat,” he said.
Florida mother Racheal Richard McKenny wrote a long post on Facebook sharing the story of how eating dragon’s breath caused her son to suffer an asthma attack. She didn’t have his asthma medication since he rarely needed it, so she almost wasn’t able to get him the medical attention he needed. Fortunately, her son recalled a nearby fire station. Emergency personnel managed to save his life and get him to a hospital. She posted the story, which had 121,000 shares and 15,000 reactions as of the time of this publication.