Dry ice can be used in drinks or cocktails to give a cool smoking effect and it can also be mixed into ice cream to keep it frozen and give in a fizzy flavor.
But is dry ice edible? and what would happen if you accidentally ate some dry ice?
Dry ice is NOT edible. It is so cold that it burns your skin. If swallowed dry ice would burn the inside of your mouth, esophagus and stomach. The expanding gas could also rupture your stomach causing internal bleeding.
If you or someone you know has swallowed some dry ice you should seek medical attention immediately!
Dry ice is fine to use in cocktails and drinks to give that cool smoke effect but is SHOULD NOT be eaten or swallowed otherwise great harm can be caused.
Luckily, dry ice naturally sinks so your dry ice cubes should sink to the bottom of your drink. Adults sipping a cocktail or halloween beverage are unlikely to take a giant gulp and accidentally swallow some dry ice so it's usually fine. But caution should always be taken.
Why Isn't Dry Ice Edible?
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and it has a temperature of approximately -109ºF (-78ºC). This is cold enough that it can almost instantly kill skin cells and can even cause frostbite.
This is why it's always recommended that you wear gloves when handling dry ice and why it is something you should DEFINITELY NOT eat.
Ingesting carbon dioxide itself isn't what's really bad here. Soda and other fizzy drinks are fizzy because they are filled with carbon dioxide liquid that turns to gas as soon as you open the bottle.
The issue with dry ice is the temperature. It's just too cold to safely eat.
It also doesn't warm up to a temperature where it is safe to eat as a solid or even a liquid. As soon as it warms up it just instantly turns into a gas.
Has Anyone Ever Eaten Dry Ice?
While eating dry ice is an incredibly stupid thing to do I wanted to find out if there are people out there who have actually done it and what happened.
I found stories of people eating food frozen by liquid nitrogen but nothing about people accidentally eating dry ice.
However, I did find this video where a now extremely popular YouTubers actually eats some dry ice live on camera and he actually seems to be fine.
I do not recommend anyone try this or you could seriously harm yourself.
What Happens If You Eat Dry Ice?
What would happen to a normal person who accidentally ate some dry ice?
If you accidentally ate some dry ice here are some things that may happen to you
Dry ice is so cold that if you hold onto it for more than a second it'll start to kill your skin cells.
If you ate dry ice then firstly it would burn the inside of your mouth. Your tongue and roof of your mouth would likely get burned.
Then as you swallowed it it would likely burn your esophagus on the way down to your stomach.
Once in your stomach the dry ice would sit at the bottom of your stomach and could burn your stomach.
Apparently it is cold enough to kill cells as much as 1/4 inch deep and can cause frostbite and burns that if left untreated can lead to gangrene.
The dry ice would also be rapidly expanding into gas. It's possible that you may be able to burp out this extra gas that is filling up your stomach.
But it's also possible that the gas could cause so much pressure build up in your stomach that it could completely rupture your stomach.
Given the risks it definitely doesn't seem worth it to swallow dry ice and if you do I would advise you seek medical help immediately.
According to this person on Quora a girl actually had to have her stomach removed due to swallowing dry ice. They say:
On her 18 birthday in her home town of Lancaster, Gaby Scanlon in England lost her stomach from a free drink with dry ice in it in 2012. She was in horrific pain and had her stomach removed in hospital. The wine bar was fined £ 100,000.
Upon doing more research I discovered this article on the BBC that states it was liquid nitrogen used in a shot glass to make a “nitro-jagermeister” but I imagine the results would be similar with dry ice.
Liquid nitrogen is 211ºF (118ºC) colder than dry ice at -320ºF (-196ºC) and it's liquid nature makes is much easier to accidentally consume, especially when put into a small shot glass that is designed to be drunk in one hit.
Dry ice sinks to the bottom of drinks and is solid in nature so make it much less likely that it'll be ingested. However, it is advised not to use it in kid's drinks as kids are less likely to be aware of the dangers and more likely to tip the drink too much and accidentally ingest the dry ice.
What Should You Do If You've Eaten Some Dry Ice?
I couldn't actually find any information on what you should do if you've eaten some dry ice but obviously you should seek medical attention immediately.
Call an ambulance, go to a hospital. Don't wait but get seen as quickly as possible.
Some things I would do if I personally ate some dry ice or someone I knew did.
- Try to vomit it back up – My first priority would be to get the dry ice out of my system as quickly as possible. I would stick my fingers down my throat and make myself vomit to do this.
- Maybe drink warm water – This is a BIG BIG maybe. Drinking warm water may protect your body from the cold dry ice burning your cells. It'll make the dry ice turn to gas and disappear quicker. However, this could also make the gas expand too much it could rupture your stomach. So I don't know about this.
Is It Safe To Put Dry Ice Into Drinks?
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. When placed it drink it'll sink to the bottom and turn to a gas.
The carbon dioxide gas will fizz its way to the top of your drink escaping into the air.
Carbon dioxide is what is used in fizzy drinks like soda to give them that fizz so we know it's safe to consume drinks with carbon dioxide in them.
However, you'll want to make sure that the dry ice you purchased is food grade.
There is dry ice that is not food grade and not pure enough for consumption by humans. This dry ice is just used to keep things cold.
You can speak to your supplier and find out if their dry ice is food grade or not. But make sure you're using food grade dry ice.
When putting dry ice into drinks don't use too much dry ice and make sure that the people drinking the drinks are away that the dry ice on the bottom is not edible and not for consumption.
If everyone is informed and you're only using small amounts in each drink then the risk of people accidentally swallowing enough dry ice to severely harm them is quite small.
Is It Safe To Put Dry Ice Into Ice Cream
The slower ice cream freezes the large the ice crystals are. When making home made ice cream sometimes the ice cream will be a lot more icy and solid than ice cream bought from the store.
A way to make smoother ice cream is to mix it with dry ice in order to freeze it faster. This makes smaller ice crystals and leads to ice cream with a nicer texture.
However, serving this ice cream instantly can be dangerous as there may still be chunks of dry ice in there.
For this reason it's recommended you put the ice cream in the freezer for a few hours before serving. This will give the leftover dry ice chunks time to sublimate and disappear making your ice cream safe to serve.
If you do serve it instantly again just make everyone aware that it was made with dry ice and to look out for any chunks of it in their ice cream.
Advise them NOT to eat any dry ice chunks but to dispose of them carefully.
Just like with the drinks you also need to make sure that your dry ice is good grade and that it is safe to use with food and drinks.