What Exactly Are Those Silica Packets That Come in Packaging?

You can't escape it.

It’s not really a nuisance, like the layers of tape and bubble wrap you have to fight through to open packages. Silica gel packets are just there, omnipresent in everything from blenders to Birkenstock boxes. But what exactly is the purpose of Silica gel packets and why can’t we eat it?

When goods are shipped over distance, its cargo containers can undergo any number of atmospheric or temperature changes that might ruin the product. The reason why it’s so crucial is that it’s a cheap and effective desiccant, an agent which is used to suck water vapor out of the air and keep an environment dry. Silica is the same material found in quartz, and in a gel form it contains millions of pores capable of absorbing and holding moisture—hence its use in packaging. 

For leather products, a dry environment is crucial for staving off mold and preventing shrinkage. The reasoning is similar when it comes to food, as a damp environment is prime for bacteria development and accelerated spoilage. Electronics and water don’t mix well, either. You should hang on to it, honestly. If you drop your phone in water and get it wet, silica is even better than rice! Or use it to dry flowers!

So, you’ve decided you’re going to eat it? Don’t.

Although the packets explicitly say “DO NOT EAT” on it, Silica, or silicon dioxide, it’s relatively harmless which is why it’s fine to store in food packaging. Slate noted that, sure, you could eat the packet if you wanted to. The stuff can absorb 40 percent of its weight in moisture, but consumption is just going to drain your fluids, so you probably just shouldn’t eat it at all. Here’s the truth about other household items that have been rumored to kill.

If silica does make it into your mouth, it’ll suck the saliva away from the sides and roof of your mouth, gums, and tongue. If you force yourself to swallow it and the silica makes it into your esophagus, you’re looking at dry eyes, a dry throat, a dry nasal cavity, and a very upset stomach. You don’t need to be that dry.

[Source: How Stuff Works]