Monday, 8 October 2012

Non-Toxic Nitrogen

The story about the young woman from Lancashire who had her stomach removed after drinking a cocktail frozen with liquid nitrogen is terrible. Let us pray that she recovers well. A stomach is something that can be lived without, although not without some inconvenience. But an innocent night out has ended with a dreadful ordeal.

And it's generated a certain amount of excitement in the media. The director of public health for Cumbria is quoted as saying, ""This girl is the victim of an irresponsible alcohol industry that's now competing on gimmicks. "Alcohol itself is a very dangerous thing if improperly handled and liquid nitrogen is a toxic chemical. It destroys human tissue."


Liquid nitrogen is not "toxic". Nitrogen forms the majority of the air we breathe. In effect, it's no more dangerous than anything else cooled to around -200C. Which is, admittedly, quite dangerous. The catering industry has also got into the use of liquid nitrogen. The slightly disturbing Heston Blumenthal uses the stuff. It's quirky, it's gimmicky. But he's not described as being part of "an irresponsible posh-nosh industry."

Of course, you don't want to put anything that cold inside yourself. The "Chemistry World Blog" puts it well. You wouldn't go into a lab after a few drinks; you shouldn't use effectively lab ingredients in the same state. If the safe consumption of a drink depends on you knowing how long to give it, you probably shouldn't be served it if you've had a few.

And that might go for flaming sambucas as well. And more prosaic fiery treats. To put it into perspective - there were more than 4,600 people injured in one year recently through chip pan fires. There was pretty well a death a week. And 30% of those in the middle of the night. If you've had a few, liquid nitrogen probably is a bad idea. But cooking chips is worse.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl