Gaby Scanlon of Lancashire, England was out celebrating her 18th birthday last Thursday night when she indulged in a Jagermeister drink prepared with liquid nitrogen. Shortly after, she began feeling breathless and suffered from severe stomach pains.
The Telegraph in the UK reports that Scanlon was rushed to the Lancaster Royal Infirmary around 11:00PM that night. She had emergency surgery to have her stomach removed due to perforation. Had doctors not performed the emergency gastrectomy, Scanlon would have died. She is currently in serious but stable condition.
BBC explains the dangers of ingesting liquid nitrogen: “As the frozen vapour hits the stomach it rapidly warms, releasing large volumes of air which can burst the stomach.”
Liquid nitrogen is being used in the food industry to freeze ingredients, chill glass, or create a vapor effect. Because the liquid’s temperature is so low, it can cause cryogenic burns or frostbite if not handled properly. However, it can be used safely in the preparation of food. The Telegraph adds that once the nitrogen has returned back to the gas form, it is relatively harmless.
Professor Peter Barham, of the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, elaborates, “Liquid nitrogen can be used safely in the preparation of foods. However, since it is not safe to ingest liquid nitrogen due care must be taken to ensure that the liquid has all evaporated before serving any food or drink that was prepared with liquid nitrogen.”
The wine bar involved with the incident has stopped selling drinks using liquid nitrogen for the time being. They are cooperating fully with authorities during the ongoing investigation. Authorities have also been warning other drinking establishments about the incident.