Can You Actually Eat Packing Peanuts?

Normally, when a package from your latest online shopping spree arrives, you open the box, remove your prized buy, and throw away the packaging, along with the box — it only makes sense. However, according to rumors, the packing or foam peanuts used to cushion delicate products can be edible.

Buzzfeed reported on the "discovery" of edible packing peanuts, all thanks to TikTok. At the time, 21-year-old Payton Thomas was told by her college professor that packing peanuts could actually be eaten. Naturally, the curious student decided to try it out for herself, and found that they "taste like if you got a Cheetos Puff and took the seasoning off of it and then left the bag open for two days so they got stale."

Although Payton admitted that she did vomit later, she isn't actually the first person to realize that some packing peanuts are edible. In 2017, Lush told HelloGiggles that the cosmetics company had moved away from plastic-based packaging materials and started shipping their beauty products in boxes filled with packing peanuts instead, due to their sustainability. Initially, Lush had experimented with popcorn but swapped that for packing peanuts because the latter was more cost-effective.

Edible packing peanuts were invented in the 1980s

Usually, packing peanuts are made from Styrofoam — that pesky little material that stays on earth for more than a million years (via Air Sea Containers). They are lightweight, affordable, and maintain their shape to protect anything that they are packed with. Thanks to Tom Martin and Jerry Sullivan, the world found an environment-friendly alternative to Styrofoam-based packing peanuts.

In the mid-1980s, Martin and Sullivan invented edible packing peanuts (via Inc.). These were made from popped sorghum grains that were shaped like pellets, much like Cheetos, and had zero nutritional value. They called their all-natural creation Biofoam and argued that it worked just as well as Styrofoam-based peanuts, but without the toxins. Once you were handed a package filled with Biofoam, you could use the edible packing peanuts as compost, dissolve them in water, toss them in the trash can without any worry, or — and here's the best part — eat them as a snack with salsa.

Many have tried eating packing peanuts, including one Lush employee who confessed, "We [Lush employees] eat them regularly. It's funny to do it for new hires" (via HelloGiggles). But, if you do want to try it yourself, it's best to do so with caution as Buzzfeed reports they are not produced in food-safe conditions.