Liquid nitrogen snacks and drinks have been popular since last summer to beat off the heat and watch smoky nitrogen vapor exhale out of their mouths, making it a must-have item for children to eat.
But fears are rising among parents after an incident happened last Thursday when a 12-year-old boy gulped down leftover liquid nitrogen from nitrogen-injected crackers, ending up with a perforated stomach, according to the boy’s father.
The boy and his family visited a water park in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, for their summer vacation. Inside the resort, the boy bought one of the so-called Yonggari Snack – nicknamed so because of the foam around the mouth of “Yonggari,” a dragon-like monster appearing in a children’s movie with the same title.
The boy ate up a cup full of crackers with nitrogen streaming out and drank the remaining liquid nitrogen at the bottom of the cup. Seconds after, the kid began to scream uncontrollably and was rushed to Dankook University Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He is now in a general ward under intensive care.
Medical staff announced that the boy’s stomach was perforated with a 5-centimeter-wide hole, along with multiple freeze-burns found in his throat and stomach. He is required to receive treatment over the next few months.
Known scientifically as LN2, liquid nitrogen is an odorless, colorless, freezing chemical, with a boiling point of -196°C.
|Liquid nitrogen in snacks has become popular among children to cool down in summer. (Source: KBS)|
Because liquid nitrogen instantly freezes anything on contact, dermatologists use it to dry out an unwanted tissue and let it fall off. Surgeons also use cryo-therapies to eliminate cancerous cells and to freeze off warts, including genital and HIV-related ones.
This is not the first time consumers have munched on nitrogen snacks/drinks with the lack of information about possible risks associated with the trend.
In October 2012, an 18-year-old British teenager named Gaby Scanlon underwent an emergency gastrectomy after drinking a Jägermeister cocktail made with liquid nitrogen, at a bar in northern England, according to the TIME magazine.
To avoid accidents similar to this case, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety식품의약품안전처 announced plans to manage the food additives such as liquid nitrogen thoroughly and to strengthen the labeling of education, publicity, and cautions on food additives. Police launched an investigation into the nitrogen-injected cracker seller, who operated their business without a license.
The ministry, which plans to pursue related legislation in September, has begun to investigate how vendors are selling liquid nitrogen-based foods at markets.
"Nitrogen is a substance approved as a food additive, and nitrogen in the gaseous state is not a big problem in theory," said a ministry official. "Concerning this case, we will check the actual use of food additives and strengthen its control.”