“Dragon Breath” or “Dragon Puff” frozen treat stands are popping up in malls and county fairs. They offer a unique, smoke-breathing treat but the Food and Drug Administration warns you should hold off before you buy.
“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries such as damage to skin and internal organs,” said Ray Hoff, from Youngstown State’s chemistry department.
That danger comes from liquid nitrogen — an extremely chilled gas.
Pieces of fruit, cheese puffs or cereal are dipped into or blasted with liquid nitrogen. Then when people pop them into their mouths, it looks like they’re spewing smoke — or “dragon breath.”
Hoff said liquid nitrogen is -400 degrees. He makes sure students wear special gear before they handle it in class.
“Think of the Arctic explorers. They put on heavy coats and all that, and they are going out into 40 or 50 below,” Hoff said.
The FDA said if the treats aren’t made properly, people can get freezer burn or frostbite from the deeply frozen treats.
“If there is still liquid in the bowl when the customer gets it, it’s a dangerous substance while it’s still in liquid form,” Hoff said.
The cold air people blow out can freeze airways and cause breathing issues.
In just a few seconds, liquid nitrogen can freeze a leaf solid. The leaf becomes very brittle and the cells are damaged.
That’s what’s happening in people’s mouths when they eat the treats.
“They are getting frostbite or frostnip. It’s like a burn,” Hoff said.
Liquid nitrogen can be used safely in food prep, such as chilling ice cream quickly. However, Hoff said it’s important to know what’s safe before experimenting.
We reached out to a local vendor of the treats in the Eastwood Mall. He didn’t want to speak about the issue.