In an attempt to save her life, British surgeons removed an 18-year-old woman’s stomach after she drank cocktails, which contained liquid nitrogen, during a birthday celebration with her friends.
When exposed to air, liquid nitrogen creates a thick fog and has become popular in recent months by bartenders to add visual affects and to give the dramatic impression that smoke is arising from the drink. Chefs use liquid nitrogen to quickly freeze foods, such as ice cream.
Liquid nitrogen is so powerful. Dermatologists use liquid nitrogen to remove warts, by freezing them off. Contact with the skin can cause cryogenic burn or “frostbite.”
Although the use of liquid nitrogen in food and drink is not illegal, the town’s MP (Member of Parliament) has written to the Health Secretary and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, urging them to ban the sale of beverages containing liquid nitrogen.
It says, “It’s extreme cold temperature makes it unsafe for people to drink and eat because the human body is unable to cope with such a cold internal temperature.”
The victim was celebrating her 18th birthday with some friends at a local bar. She had two “nitro” drinks mixed with Jagermeister. Shortly after consuming the drinks, the victim complained of breathlessness and gastric pain and was rushed to a local hospital, after collapsing at the bar. She underwent emergency surgery to have her stomach completely removed, known as a total gastrectomy.
A gastrectomy is when the esophagus (the tube that goes from the throat to the stomach) is surgically connected to the small intestine. This means the person will still have a working digestive system afterwards. However, a patient who has had a gastrectomy may need to change their diet, by eating smaller, more frequent meals, rather than three large meals a day.
“Medical opinion is that this would have proved fatal had the operation not been carried out urgently,” police said.
Professor of food physics at Leeds University, Malcolm Povey, said that liquid nitrogen should not be consumed while still liquid, as it turns into a gas inside the body and causes the stomach to swell and burst.
“The liquid nitrogen would rapidly change into gas and blow the stomach up like a balloon…the idea that people put this stuff in drinks is just unbelievable,” Povey told Reuters.
If the liquid nitrogen is not burned away fully, it can prove harmful and, as in her case, cause serious injury.
The bar that sold the drink has stopped selling all liquid nitrogen drinks, police who are investigating the incident have said.
“This poor girl is the victim of an irresponsible alcohol industry that’s now competing on gimmicks,” said Dr. John Ashton, director of public health for Cumbria. “Alcohol itself is a very dangerous thing if improperly handled and liquid nitrogen is a toxic chemical. It destroys human tissue,” the BBC has reported.
There is no word yet as to whether or not there will be a lawsuit or if the establishment has actually committed a crime by serving the drinks. Local police said, “The premises involved have fully cooperated with all agencies and have suspended drinks involving liquid nitrogen. The investigation is still in its early stages and we are still interviewing witnesses to establish the full facts.”
Do you think the bartender should have warned the victim about the danger of liquid nitrogen if consumed before it evaporates? Should the bar be held accountable for allowing this dangerous chemical to be served in their bar?
Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).