More than 20 children have been injured in Indonesia after taking part in a TikTok trend in which they were filmed eating a street snack soaked in liquid nitrogen colloquially known as “dragon’s breath”.
The government has warned of the dangers of using liquid nitrogen in ready-to-eat foods and called for greater vigilance after some children suffered stomach burns and food poisoning while eating chiki ngebul or chikibulis – a rainbow assortment of sweets covered in a cloud of liquid nitrogen mist.
The liquid nitrogen causes the snack to appear to smoke when consumed, but if consumed before the liquid nitrogen evaporates, there is the potential for burns and intestinal perforations, and in the most severe cases, it can lead to death, said Dr. Dickie Budiman. , an Indonesian physician and global health security researcher at Griffith University.
Skin burns and severe breathing difficulties are other potential risks, Indonesian Health Ministry Director General Maxi Rein Rondonuvu said in a statement.
No deaths were reported, but the ministry said about 25 children were affected and two were hospitalized. Budiman said the number of affected children could be much higher.
The ministry has asked local health agencies to monitor restaurants that use liquid nitrogen, while informing them about how consumers can enjoy it safely. “Mobile hawker food outlets” are advised not to sell such snacks at all. He also asked schools to educate children about the dangers.
On TikTok, dozens of videos, accompanied by dance music, show teenagers and young children with tendrils of smoke coming out of their mouths as they eat chiki ngebul. In one video that has garnered nearly 60,000 views, a toddler can be seen blowing smoke through a hole in a candy.
Although the snack has been around for several years and liquid nitrogen is commonly used in food, such snacks are easier to access now than they were in the past, Budiman said.
“Maybe it’s tapering off now.” [in price] and not only easier to access, but the number of new businesses using this liquid nitrogen is increasing,” he said. They are often sold by street vendors, and many food handlers do not know how to use liquid nitrogen properly, while children are unaware of its dangers, Budiman said.
“For some teenagers, the experience [of] dangerous things [generates] more enthusiasm. They [are] eager to try it. It’s a dangerous thing,” he said.