Surgeons were forced to remove the stomach of a UK teenager celebrating her eighteenth birthday, after she drank two liquid nitrogen cocktails.
Gaby Scanlon had been out with three friends in Lancaster city center and downed both “Nitro Jagermeister” cocktails in Oscar’s Wine Bar and Bistro before being rushed to a hospital with terrible stomach pains.
“I couldn’t talk, I could barely walk and everything was just a blur of pain. I was so frightened. I knew the drink must have caused it,” Scanlon said.
The Daily Mail’s Helen Weathers points out that if Scanlon’s friends had not insisted on driving her straight to Lancaster Royal Infirmary, she would not be alive today.
It is believed the cocktails Scanlon drank still contained drops of the liquid nitrogen which then caused horrendous burns to her stomach.
“Since it is not safe to ingest liquid nitrogen, care must be taken to ensure that the liquid has all evaporated before serving any food or drink that was prepared with liquid nitrogen.”
Those two drinks completely destroyed her stomach, leaving it perforated, according to Doctors.
The Sun reported Lancashire police stated an investigation was under way and added: “Medical opinion is that this would have proved fatal had the operation not been carried out urgently.
“The premises involved have suspended drinks involving liquid nitrogen”
Popularized by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s “Mousse Poached in Liquid Nitrogen,” liquid nitrogen vaporizes at -196C and has been increasingly used to chill glasses, and create a smoky looking water vapor.
“Liquid nitrogen is formed by cooling down the harmless gas nitrogen to such a low temperature that it becomes liquid. It is intensely cold (-196°C) and if not used properly can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns when it comes into contact with living tissue.
“Liquid nitrogen is used in cryotherapy medical treatment to burn away skin abnormalities, such as warts. But it will have the same effect if consumed, burning internal tissue in the stomach.”
People should not be playing chemistry in public houses, said Dr John Ashton, director of public health for Cumbria.
“This is a very, very cold substance and it is similar to subjecting your esophagus and stomach to frost bite. As this case highlights there are major safety implications and it is time there was better regulation put in place to prevent things like this dreadful incident happening again.”
He said a total ban would only lead to increased demand for the dangerous cocktails but said there should be stringent regulation.
UK Health minister Anna Soubry said there are industry safety and handling guidelines around the use and storage of liquid nitrogen.
“It is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure that their staff have been trained and are aware of potential risks of using liquid nitrogen.”
In other words, the retail use of liquid nitrogen in the UK is totally unregulated.
Soubry even stressed the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) responsible for food safety issues, does not need additional laws to govern the use of liquid nitrogen in drinks.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency operates much the same as US regulatory agencies like the FDA, where retail and wholesale food companies are given carte blanche to police themselves.