Indonesia: Warning Issued Over ‘Dragon’s Breath’ Viral Video Trend


Indonesia is warning people not to consume liquid nitrogen after more than 20 children were harmed eating a street snack known as “dragon’s breath” that is at the center of a dangerous new trend of viral videos.

The children suffered skin burns, severe stomach pains and food poisoning after consuming the colorful sweets, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Health, which urges parents, teachers and local health authorities to be vigilant.

The sweets are immersed in liquid nitrogen to create a vapor effect when eaten. They are popular with children, dozens of whom have uploaded clips to the short-form video app TikTok showing them expelling the fumes from their mouths, noses and ears. A video showing a street vendor preparing the snack has been viewed close to 10 million times.

About 25 children were injured by consuming the sweets, including two who were hospitalized, the ministry’s director-general Maxi Rein Rondonuwu said. No deaths have been reported.

The use of liquid nitrogen in food preparation is not illegal. The best chefs often use the steamers to create theatrical effects when serving dishes. It is transparent, colorless, and odorless, and is commonly used in medical settings and as an ingredient for freezing foods.

However, when not used correctly, it can be dangerous.

“Liquid nitrogen is not only dangerous when consumed, but it can cause severe breathing difficulties due to nitrogen vapors that are inhaled for a long time,” Maxi said.

The first case was reported in July 2022, according to the ministry, when a boy from a village in East Java’s Ponorogo regency suffered cold burns to his skin after eating the snack.

More cases were reported in November and December, including a 4-year-old boy who was admitted to hospital in the capital Jakarta with severe stomach pain.

“Schools need to educate children in the community about the dangers of liquid nitrogen in food (to) prevent more cases of severe food poisoning,” Maxi said.

dragon breath

New liquid nitrogen cereal sparks controversy

In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued safety alerts warning that serious injury could result from eating foods such as ice cream, cereal, or cocktails made with liquid nitrogen.

“Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has completely evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food,” the FDA said.

“This is a dangerous chemical compound,” said Clarence Yeo, a doctor from Singapore. “It irritates the stomach and can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Children would be especially sensitive to (its effects) if eaten in large quantities.”

Yeo cautioned that he “would not advise anyone to eat it.”

“You could end up in the hospital and the worst case scenario could be organ damage,” he said.