FDA Alert Concerning Consumption of Certain Food Products Infused with Liquid Nitrogen
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued an advisory about the potential harmful effects of a new food trend – the consumption of food and/or beverages infused with liquid nitrogen when the infusion is performed at the point of sale. According to the FDA, examples include infused solid food products, such as cheese puffs, and beverages. The infused products emit a smoke-like vapor or fog effect. The liquid nitrogen is infused just before they are served and are often available at food courts, kiosks, community fairs and upscale restaurants/bars.
Specifically, FDA advisory states that “liquid nitrogen, although non-toxic, can cause severe damage to skin and internal organs if mishandled or accidently ingested due to the extremely low temperatures it can maintain.” FDA further warns consumers that “inhaling the vapor released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.” This safety alert advises consumers to avoid eating, drinking, or handling foods prepared using liquid nitrogen at point of sale and immediately before consumption, due to risk of injury.
FDA’s alert distinguishes infused foods and beverages at the point of sale from those that are treated prior to the point of sale and before consumption. FDA points out that these products, such as frozen products, are treated in such a way that results in the complete evaporation of liquid nitrogen before the products reach the consumer. As such, the products are no longer at an extremely low temperature, and therefore, do not pose a significant risk of injury.
We have seen at least two lawsuits filed in 2018 alleging injuries caused by the types of products infused with liquid nitrogen described above. In one of those suits, filed in South Carolina, the plaintiff claims to have suffered injuries after purchasing and consuming liquid nitrogen-soaked cereal at kiosk in a mall. That plaintiff alleges that there were no written warnings posted and he was not asked to sign any waivers. Similarly, in a lawsuit filed in California, the plaintiff claims to have suffered injuries after purchasing and consuming liquid nitrogen “soaked/covered fruity cereal puffs.” That plaintiff alleges that consuming the product was intended to produce a thick fog or smoke, emanating from the customer’s nose and mouth, mimicking a dragon. Defendants in both cases have denied the allegations, and we will continue to follow these cases.
FDA’s warning to consumers on this issue emphasizes the potential hazards in the consumption of these liquid nitrogen infused specialty foods.