More than 20 children in Indonesia have suffered stomach burns after eating a street snack frozen with liquid nitrogen to participate in a viral TikTok trend.
The snack is locally known as ”chiki ngebul” and named after a popular Indonesian brand of packaged snacks, reported Jakarta Times.
In recent months, the snack, also known as “dragon’s breath”, became part of a TikTok trend in which children recorded themselves eating it with smoke from the liquid nitrogen coming out of their mouths.
The government has urged greater vigilance and warned against the use of liquid nitrogen in ready-to-eat food.
“Liquid nitrogen (could reach temperatures) of minus 190 deg C. So if it comes into contact with the skin it can cause frostbite or cold burns... It could also cause respiratory and digestive problems if inhaled and swallowed (in large amounts),” the Health Ministry’s director for environmental health Anas Ma’ruf was quoted as saying at a press conference last Thursday.
Authorities said the first case was reported in East Java’s Ponorogo regency in July 2022 when a child developed freeze burns after consuming the snack.
According to the Indonesian ministry of health’s director general Maxi Rein Rondonuwu, skin burns and severe breathing difficulties are other potential risks, reported The Guardian.
Authorities have issued advisories to “mobile hawker food outlets” against selling such snacks and have also asked schools to educate children about the dangers.
While no deaths have been reported according to the health ministry around 25 children have been affected, with two hospitalised.
Dr Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian doctor and researcher of global health security at Griffith University, said to the outlet that while the snack has been around for several years, and liquid nitrogen is commonly used in food, they are now more easily available.
“Maybe now it’s decreasing [in price] and not only easier to access but also the number of new businesses using this liquid nitrogen is also increasing”, he said, adding that many food handlers don’t know how to use liquid nitrogen properly.