Dragon’s Breath looks cool, but could be dangerous
Health officials are sounding an alarm about a new frosty snack infused with liquid nitrogen called Dragon’s Breath.
One mom in Florida wrote on Facebook last week that the treat triggered a severe asthma attack in her son.
Teens and young adults are posting photos and videos on Instagram and YouTube showing how they can blow “smoke,” like a dragon, when they eat the cold dessert.
Pictures on social media have been shared from state fairs, street festivals and shopping malls from California to Florida.
“Dragon’s Breath is a food novelty made by freezing cereal puffs in liquid nitrogen. The frozen cereal is then served in a cup and eaten using a skewer or similar utensil,” Suffolk County (New York) Health Commissioner James Tomarken, wrote in a warning earlier this summer.
“When the frozen cereal is chewed, the cold condenses moisture in the consumer’s exhaled breath and give the appearance of breathing smoke.
“If an item infused with liquid nitrogen is prepared or consumed incorrectly, it could have harmful health consequences. Liquid nitrogen can cause damage to a person’s skin and internal organs and, if inhaled, it can cause asphyxiation (lack of oxygen).”
According to The Takeout food blog, the cold snack was trademarked last year as “Dragon Breath” by a frozen dessert shop called Chocolate Chair that has shops in Nevada and California.
The company’s website calls it “a novelty dessert made of fruity cereal puffs soaked in liquid nitrogen.
“When eaten, Dragon Breath release a thick fog, mimicking the smoke coming out of a dragon’s mouth and nostrils. There are many copy cats who imitate our products, but we are the first inventor and holder of trademark of the products in America.”
The novelty dessert is also known as nitro puffs, dragon nitro puff, Heaven Breath, dragon balls and snow balls, and can be made by soaking other airy food - including popcorn, marshmallows and cheese puffs - in liquid nitrogen - according to Glutto Digest.
“We human beings sure love our dopey dessert trends,” writes The Takeout.
Racheal Richard McKenny, a mom in Saint Augustine, Florida, thought the idea of Dragon’s Breath sounded “pretty neat” when her son, Johnny, saw it at a kiosk at The Avenues mall in Jacksonville, she wrote on her Facebook page on July 25.
“I want to share Johnny’s story with everyone to serve as a cautionary tale in hopes that it could prevent this from happening again,” she wrote.
She wrote that her son has asthma. He has a nebulizer machine at home and has had “a prescription inhaler for five years now, but we have rarely had to use it.”
She didn’t have either when they went to the mall. “It never even crossed my mind that we might need them. I was wrong.” she wrote.
She said she let her kids split an order of Dragon’s Breath on the way out. About 10 minutes into their 40-minute ride home, Johnny started coughing. It became more persistent and strong, then he had trouble breathing.
Knowing they weren’t close to a hospital, they went to a fire station and got help from the EMTs there, who prepped Johnny for a ride to the hospital with an albuterol treatment, an IV, and ultimately a shot of epinephrine, she wrote.
“What triggered this? The liquid nitrogen smoke from the Dragon’s Breath cereal,” she wrote. “PLEASE, if you know someone that has even just a mild case of asthma, do NOT let them have this snack.
“I should have known better, but it did not occur to me that this food could have this effect. As a result, my son could have died. Please don’t make the same mistake I did.”
In October, another Florida child reportedly suffered a chemical burn from a Dragon’s Breath she had at the Pensacola Interstate Fair, according to WEAR TV station.
The 14-year-old girl’s grandmother told WEAR in Pensacola that her granddaughter had to go to the emergency room after she burned her thumb.
“The ER doctor had to cut it open, cut away the dead skin and get the infection out,” Tina McArthur told the TV station. “They said had we not come in and got her finger treated she could have possibly lost her thumb.”
McArthur claimed her nephew also burned his tongue eating one of the snacks.
“If you ingest the liquid or food that has a lot of it on there it can cause severe frostbite or cryogenic burns to your mouth,” Randall Reese, a pediatrician at Pensacola Pediatrics, told WEAR.
“We have seen a patient in our office who had a burn to the roof of their mouth from a small child from putting the cold food in their mouth.”
Reese recommended that parents not let their children have the treat. He said parent shouldn’t try it, either.
The manager of the booth that sold the Dragon’s Breath told WEAR the dessert was safe, is being consumed across the country and should be eaten as cautiously as, say, hot soup..
The treat often comes served on skewers or with skewers, and vendors reportedly post warning signs that “foods prepared with liquid nitrogen are extremely cold” and that the dessert might “cause irritation if eaten improperly,” like with bare hands, reported WLOS in Asheville, N.C.
The treat is not allowed everywhere.
In Nassau County, New York, for instance, health officials have denied requests from restaurants wanting to sell it “until it can be determined if this is a safe practice,” a health department spokeswoman told Newsday in June.
Some of the problems appear to stem from residual liquid nitrogen in the cups the treat is served in.
“The concern is the liquid nitrogen they use to make the smoke,” Julie Weber, director of the Missouri Poison Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis told KMOX.
“It’s not so much a problem that they’re coating it, it’s sometimes the liquid nitrogen doesn’t totally dissipate or evaporate, and some of that liquid could be left in the bottom of a bowl or dish that the child or adult is eating from.”
“Instances of frostbite and tissue damage have been reported caused by residual liquid nitrogen in the serving cup,” the New York State Department of Health said in a statement to local health officials this summer.
“If fingers are used to remove the product from the cup, skin contact with liquid nitrogen can cause frostbite. Ingestion of liquid nitrogen can cause severe damage to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach,” New York health officials said..
“Preparing the puffs in a manner that removes residual liquid nitrogen prior to serving effectively reduces the potential for injury.”