Doug Thornton, the Chief Executive of the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA), has called for responsible retailing in the food and drink industry due to the news of an 18-year-old requiring a gastrectomy.
His statement follows the news on Saturday evening that Gaby Scanlon, who was out with friends celebrating her 18th birthday in a Lancaster City Centre wine bar, was rushed to hospital after consuming a celebratory cocktail – containing liquid nitrogen.
The teen was required to go under-the-knife for an operation to remove her stomach, something usually reserved for those suffering from a condition like stomach cancer, and save her life.
But, following the incident, Doug Thornton - the chief executive of the BCGA - called for more to be done to protect consumers and blamed the rise of celebrity chefs like Heston Blumenthal who have inspired the public to try molecular mixology or theatrical cocktails.
He said, “I saw it being used on the television the other day to make ice cream, and I just thought: ‘Why are they being so stupid?’ Celebrity chefs and barmen need to stop portraying liquid nitrogen as a good thing to use. It is not. It is stupid. You have to be very highly trained to handle it.”
“I am critical of anything or anyone that tries to encourage others to play with gases, with little understanding of the hazards of Cryo temperatures, pressure or asphyxiation potential.”
“And anything that encourages the public to track it down is terrible news. The BCGA will be revising our L7 leaflet in a hope to send out a strong message that putting Liquid Nitrogen or solid CO2 in drinks is an extremely bad idea.”
Elsewhere, the Food Standards Agency is urging people to also be aware of the dangers of liquid nitrogen, following the information that it may be being used in alcoholic drinks on sale in the UK.
Liquid nitrogen is a chemical that can be used to chill and freeze food. Although it is not a toxic substance, its 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 FSA’s Head of Incident Management, Colin Houston, said, “There are safety and handling guidelines around the use of liquid nitrogen, especially in relation to food. It is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure that their staff have been trained and are aware of the potential risks of using liquid nitrogen. They also have to have appropriate safety measures in place to protect both their staff and consumers.”
“The FSA will be making local enforcement officers aware of the practice of using liquid nitrogen in the use of cocktails and it will be something officers can incorporate as part of their inspection regime.”
“We’re also working with other departments and agencies to investigate the issue and whether we need to take any further action.’”
Food manufacturers, retailers and businesses in the UK have a legal obligation to make sure that any and all food they are serving to the public is fit for human consumption.