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What happens if one actually does go about eating the beads in those "do-not-eat" packets?

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    $\begingroup$ did.... did you ask this question after ingesting a packet of silica gel? $\endgroup$ – JamesENL Sep 11 '14 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesmassey uhm...just asking for a friend- $\endgroup$ – Nick Sep 11 '14 at 13:43
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Usually, nothing happens if you eat silica gel. In fact, you eat it all the time. Silica is added to improve flow in powdered foods. It occurs naturally in water, where it may help confer resistance against developing senility. Silica is just another name for silicon dioxide, the main component of sand. Mayby you think if silica is harmless to eat, why do the packets carry the warning? The answer is that some silica contains toxic additives. For example, silica gel beads may contain toxic and potentially carcinogenic cobalt(II) chloride, which is added as a moisture indicator. You can recognize silica containing cobalt chloride because it will be colored blue (dry) or pink (hydrated). Another common moisture indicator is methyl violet, which is orange (dry) or green (hydrated). Methyl violet is a mutagen and mitotic poison. While you can expect most silica you encounter will be non-toxic, ingestion of a colored product warrants a call to Poison Control.

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    $\begingroup$ Also, even if no additives were added deliberately, the silica may contain traces of harmful substances left over from the production process. It's a legal/regulatory issue that silica meant for consumption is strictly controlled and of high purity, just like other food additives, while silica for technical uses is regulated differently. So the warning tells you that this particular silica is not licensed as food additive, but it's not necessarily poisonous. $\endgroup$ – Stephan Matthiesen Apr 5 '16 at 19:57
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I don't think it would harm you: apparently silica gel is a widely-used food additive. According to Wikipedia:

Silica gel, also referred to as silica aerogel or hydrated silica, has FDA GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, meaning it can be added to food products without needing approval. Silica is allowed to be added to food in the US at up to 2% as permitted under 21 CFR 172.480. In the EU it can be in up to 5% concentrations.

Listed uses include: anticaking agent, defoaming agent, stabilizer, adsorbent, carrier, conditioning agent, chillproofing agent, filter aid, emulsifying agent, viscosity control agent, and anti-settling agent.

However, obviously, you shouldn't plan on eating lots of it.

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  • $\begingroup$ it is the same as eating sand right? $\endgroup$ – Nick Sep 10 '14 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ The main problem is that small kids get hand on this and get it into the airways. $\endgroup$ – Chris Sep 10 '14 at 14:52
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I did research on whether or not silica gel was poisonous, because I wanted to use a bunch of the silica gel beads as an abrasive method to clean out a bottle that was dirty. I added a bunch of silica gel beads and a bit of water into the dirty bottle to be cleaned, I put the lid back on and tilted the bottle back and forth and used the beads as a way of scraping the inside of the bottle clean. This did work well, but I found that upon adding water to the silica beads, quite a few of the silica gel beads cracked, this was from the silica gel beads absorbing water fast. The silica gel beads are designed to absorb moisture slowly from the air. The result of the silica gel beads breaking, were tiny slivers of sharp silica, so even if silica gel itself is not poisonous, eating them could be dangerous, because some of the silica gel beads will shatter into sharp pieces, and could cause cuts in the digestive tract, so avoid eating silica gel beads.

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  • $\begingroup$ can you add some references for your research? That would definitely help your answer $\endgroup$ – Vance L Albaugh Apr 4 '16 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for shattering, I applied water on silica gel beads a few years ago and they cannot withstand the internal pressure and literally blow up. For small beads this might not be a problem, I am not sure. Since the material is close to glass I think it can cut too, but I never tried. $\endgroup$ – inf3rno Feb 3 at 10:10

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