U of A Food Scientists Caution Against Using Liquid Nitrogen With Kids' Foods

During the Summer STEM Camp hosted by Bumpers College's departments of animal science, food science and horticulture, food science professors warned campers about dangers associated with liquid nitrogen and Dragon's Breath frozen desserts.
Photo by Rosa Buescher

During the Summer STEM Camp hosted by Bumpers College's departments of animal science, food science and horticulture, food science professors warned campers about dangers associated with liquid nitrogen and Dragon's Breath frozen desserts.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A growing trend of dipping frozen deserts in liquid nitrogen shortly before serving poses several potential health risks, according to food science and food safety professors at the University of Arkansas.

Treats made by dipping food items in liquid nitrogen immediately before serving produce extremely cold vapors. When placed in the mouth, those nitrogen vapors can come out of the nose and mouth. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold. It hits its boiling point at -324 degrees and changes from a liquid to a gas. This transformation produces possible health risks, including internal and external burns, and internal complications when the gas expands in the stomach.

“Liquid nitrogen is a chemical used in many cooling and cryogenic applications,” said Ya-Jane Wang, professor of carbohydrate chemistry. “It can be used in a variety of food preparations from commercial industry to gourmet restaurants but should never be ingested.”

Wang and Sun-Ok Lee, professor of nutrition, are both faculty members in the U of A’s Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, the Department of Food Science and with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.

They recently discussed potential hazards of consuming food dipped in liquid nitrogen with elementary school children visiting campus as part of the Summer STEM Camp.

They offered the students a few warnings, and suggested one alternative:

  • Be cautious because liquid nitrogen is colorless, tasteless and odorless.
  • The extremely cold temperature can burn and damage human tissue.
  • Make sure all liquid nitrogen is evaporated.
  • Use under proper supervision.
  • A safer liquid nitrogen dessert alternative is ice cream because there’s more time for evaporation of the nitrogen.

The summer camp was hosted by Bumpers College’s departments of animal science, food science and horticulture in partnership with the Center for Mathematics and Science Education.

For more information on food science, food safety and food science STEM camps or departmental tours, please email student relations coordinator Rosa Buescher at rosab@uark.edu.

Students experiment with liquid nitrogen during a Summer STEM Camp.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Robby Edwards, director of communications
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
479-575-4625, robbye@uark.edu

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