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Dangers of Liquid Nitrogen in Foods

It’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd and create something fresh, new and exciting within the culinary industries. Which is likely why people today are finding themselves so swept up in styles and trends, perhaps even when it poses a risk to their health. An example of this is the recent influx of liquid nitrogen used in food and drinks.

In this blog, Team Med explore this concerning new practice, as well as the dangerous ramifications that could become of it.

Firstly, What is Liquid Nitrogen?

Nitrogen is one of the most commonly found elements in the universe, available naturally throughout soils, oceans, and even the air. It is a vital nutrient in the growth of plants and animals. Liquid nitrogen is, therefore, exactly what it sounds like: nitrogen reduced to a liquid form. It is exceptionally cold, with temperatures reaching 200 degrees Celsius below zero. This is because it is generally utilised in medical procedures, such as cryopreservation of bone marrow, early embryos, and other materials, as well as food and medicines. Most people will be familiar with it through dermatology, however, as the supercool feature of liquid nitrogen is frequently used to freeze off benign growths, pre-cancers and skin cancers, applied generally through a spray canister or via a cotton swab. It is also commonly used in science experiments to create chemical reactions, demonstrating the qualities of extreme cold. Which, as it happens, seems to be the inspiration of the dangerous new food trend…

How is Liquid Nitrogen Being Used in Food and Drink?

There are only so many ways you can present the same food and drink ingredients. As a result, restaurants and bars have taken inspiration from the classroom and introduced science into the experiences they now offer. For example, cocktail glasses are being chilled within liquid nitrogen, so that once they are removed, it will appear that smoke is being released once any liquids are added. Another method is to include a small drop of liquid nitrogen into the drink to produce the same vapour. The effect has been given a variety of names, such as ‘Dragon’s Breath’ and ‘Nitro Puff’.

But it doesn’t stop with drinks. Liquid nitrogen is also frequently used to create ice cream and even cereal.

Why is Liquid Nitrogen Dangerous?

When people hear there are dangers to ingesting certain foods or drinks, most will immediately suspect it to be toxic, but this isn’t the case with liquid nitrogen. The danger lies in the extreme low temperatures. As mentioned earlier, such coldness can create a burning effect, which can cause serious injury to your skin or internal organs when consumed or handled improperly. Even inhaling liquid nitrogen can create breathing difficulties as our lungs struggle with the cold-shock, especially for people with asthma, as the constriction would trigger an attack. 

Liquid nitrogen needs to be fully evaporated in any food or beverage before it can be safely consumed. Otherwise, you take the risk of severely burning your mouth, oesophagus and airways, as well as fatally perforating your organs.

What the Future Holds for Liquid Nitrogen

At the moment, there are no restrictions to hospitality establishments serving liquid nitrogen with their products. That being said, if you choose to consume one, be careful to wait until the ‘effect’ has worn off and full evaporation has taken place. Otherwise, be wise and avoid such theatrics. You’re there for the food and drink, remember. The experience is just to get you in the door.

If you would like to learn more about how liquid nitrogen is used medicinally or products for proper handling, please do not hesitate to contact the staff at Team Medical Supplies today. 

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