some history on dragon’s breath…
When we started The Freezing Point in April 2015, “Dragon’s Breath” was not a thing. Back then you may have heard of the fun smokey treat through the grapevine. Organizations like ILEA or NACE may have witnessed the magic first hand through a unique experience at The Special Events show, but it certainly was not main stream. And it was done by chefs who had the means to access liquid nitrogen.
Based off some Google News searching… “Dragon’s Breath harm” articles didn’t start appearing until June of 2016. And then by 2017 the fad stuck, pop-ups started to grow, new kiosks at malls, and booths at carnivals appeared; “Dragon’s Breath” was now a thing. The first reports of people hurting themselves started to hit the news by the end of 2017 and since then the reports just kept coming in and in. In August 2018 the FDA posted a warning against Dragon’s Breath.
HOW PEOPLE ARE HURTING THEMSELVES
Because I know people confuse the two it’s something worth mentioning now. Dragon’s breath is not the same as Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream. Dragon’s breath is traditionally a corn puff cereal dipped in liquid nitrogen so that guests can blow ‘smokey’ air out of their mouth. Dragon’s Breath in some areas are called Nitro Puffs or Heaven’s Air etc. I get asked if we serve Dragon’s Breath from my clients, and the answer is yes, but we do so in a way that does not harm guests (see video below).
So how can it harm you?
Dragon’s Breath at kiosks is traditionally served in a plastic cup. Today many vendors are rushed and do not prioritize shaking off the liquid nitrogen fully. Liquid nitrogen looks like water and sinks to the bottom of the cup. Some guests ingest liquid nitrogen, even if there are warning signs not to, and nitrogen in liquid form is -321 F! It takes a lot of liquid nitrogen to make it to your stomach, which luckily for Dragon’s Breath that is very unlikely. But what I do see happening, and have read about in the news, is that there is just enough liquid nitrogen to cause frost burns in the mouth - severe blisters and everything.
Dragon’s Breath treats (mainly cereal, but can be anything from cookies to popcorn) are not given time to warm up to safe temperatures to ingest. Imagine freezing something in a -321 F environment and then introducing it back to room temperature. That snack will need some time and some breathing room to warm up. I made a video (below) demonstrating this, but what we’ve found is that these snacks do warm up quite quickly if given the space. These tall cups are the worst thing to serve it in because it doesn’t give it the room to breath. Biting on very cold treats can also cause burns to the mouth.
Lastly, asthma attacks. In the video you’ll see that these treats when served in a tall cup can sit at very low temperatures. My thermometer could only measure down to -67 F, and the cup would consistently say LOW. The fog is consistently below -67 F in this case!!! Very cold air is a trigger for asthma; and this is why you are seeing these reports as well.
it can be done safely
We have debated back and forth on if we should remove this type of product from our menu. I (Carolyn who’s writing this post) have a background for many years in Risk Management and take safety quite seriously. The challenge here is that The Freezing Point was built on the idea of creating a memorable experience, something unique to brighten a guest’s day, to intrigue others, and to create excitement for the science. Dragon’s Breath does this. Fortunately it is easy to serve the product safely. Unfortunately other vendors do not.
In the same warning, the FDA mentions that there are confections that are safe.
“In general, other foods treated with liquid nitrogen prior to the point of sale and before consumption, for example some frozen confections, are treated in such a way that results in the complete evaporation of liquid nitrogen before reaching the consumer and are no longer at an extremely low temperature, and therefore do not pose a significant risk of injury.”
What we do differently:
We take the time to ensure liquid nitrogen is shaken off. That added 20 seconds makes a difference. “Complete evaporation of liquid nitrogen.”
We serve in smaller batches to ensure that the treats are given space to warm up. “No longer at an extremely low temperature.”
The fog our treats create are at traditional cold temperatures. Asthma attacks would be highly unlikely in this case. What this also means is that maybe our fog isn’t as large and grand as you would see in our competitors’ marketing materials, but for us safety comes first.
When the FDA Warning released many of my clients had questions. I am a visual person, and knew that many of my clients were as well, so I attempted to film a video for demonstration. A big shout out and thank you to Natasha, a barista of ours, for filming and editing our video.
Warning: the video is long and you’re basically watching me do a live science experiment with a thermometer.
My hypothesis: The cause of the treats being at extremely low temperature was purely based on how long the treats were frozen before serving.
My findings: The duration of freezing time was not as important. The treats naturally warm up quickly. The cause of the treats being at extremely low temperatures actually had to do with the cup design and the fact there was no room for the treats to warm up.
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