A Qualitative Risk Assessment of Liquid Nitrogen in Foods and Beverages
Smokey liquid nitrogen (LN2) infusions are one of the latest eye-catching food trends. With its ability to create fog-like effects and flash freeze foods, LN2 has become popular for use in ice cream, snacks, and cocktails recently. Although perceived to be harmless, there are incidents of consumers suffering adverse health effects after consuming foods prepared with LN2. Thus, a qualitative risk assessment was undertaken to estimate the potential risks to consumers. Through an analysis of gray and scientific literature, case reports related to inhalation, ingestion, and contact with LN2 were reviewed for relevant information. It was found that inhalation of LN2 vapors could potentially cause rare, but serious, injuries such as respiratory distress and asphyxia. Ingestion injuries, which typically result after consuming LN2 before it fully evaporates, often include gastrointestinal barotrauma and rupture. Lastly, when skin or tissues come in contact with LN2 for more than a short period of time, frostbite can occur. To reduce the risks are properly trained to handle and serve LN2, (ii) patrons are given clear instructions on how to safely consume such treats, and (iii) regulatory agencies put appropriate regulatory interventions into action as needed.
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