What Happens If You Eat the ‘Do Not Eat’ Pouch in Medicine Bottles?

Is silica gel really as harmful as it sounds?
Silica Gel

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Tnarek Innael/ CC4.0

The packet appears in everything from medicine bottles to beef jerky packages.

Hiding inside just about every bottle of over-the-counter medicine (as well as assorted other products ranging from leather goods to beef jerky) is a small pouch that usually says something on it to the extent of SILICA GEL: DO NOT EAT. We probably wouldn’t have eaten it anyway, but they’re really driving the point home. So it’s presumably poisonous, right? What really happens if you eat it?

First, a little background about what silica gel really is. It’s a mineral known as silicon dioxide, which is also the primary component of quartz crystals, 95 percent of all rocks on the planet, and common sand. It also occurs naturally in vegetables including leafy greens, bell peppers, and beets. It’s very porous, so it absorbs water (making it what’s called a desiccant), so when formed into tiny beads and contained in a special packet, it absorbs humidity in whatever container it’s placed into.

According to Slate, silica gel is “an inert, nontoxic substance that's essentially harmless. Indigestible, it passes through the body and comes out looking much the same as when it went in.” The main reason manufacturers are so concerned about consumers eating the silica gel packets? The risk of choking.

So if you accidentally eat some of the silica gel in the beef jerky packet (or if your kid does), don’t worry. It’s completely harmless. 

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