Silica gel packs keep food fresh AND won’t necessarily kill you

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 By

A silica gel packet.

Silica gel keeps food fresh, and probably won’t kill you. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Cjp24/Wikipedia)

If you’ve ever bought a pair of new shoes, you’ve seen the little packets of silica gel. They’re the small white paper packets covered with “Do Not Eat” warning messages, filled with silicon dioxide globules that work as a desiccant, preventing moisture damage. But did you know they work well in the kitchen? Here’s how to keep food fresh with silica gel – and why the “Do Not Eat” warning may be overstated.

Using silica gel to keep food fresh

Prematurely spoiled food is a pain in the wallet. Stashing some silica gel packs in the spice drawer, or in containers of dried fruits and herbs can help save you the pain. Putting them in the vegetable drawer also works, just don’t spill the packs around and into your salad fixings.

No only is this technique good for keeping food fresh, but for maintaining the functionality of your cooking utensils and pans. Storing silica gel packs in with kitchen tools can help combat corrosion.

Eating silica gel

While eating silica gel isn’t an activity you should undertake, a recent article by Slate suggests that if you were to do so by accident, you wouldn’t necessarily harm yourself a great deal. Silica gel is a form of naturally occurring silicon dioxide, better known in granular form as sand, or in crystals as quartz. It is porous, able to absorb 40 percent of its weight in water. It is also inert, non-toxic and mostly harmless. The body does not digest it, and thus is passes through the system mostly unchanged.

However, in large quantities, eating silica gel packets can be dangerous. If young children or adults with neuromuscular problems try to eat whole silica gel packets, choking can become an issue. In some cases, silica substitutes like cobalt chloride, if ingested, can cause nausea and vomiting. In such instances, you should contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers hotline at 800-222-1222.

Sources

American Association of Poison Control Centers

The Kitchn

Slate

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