Is it safe to eat the Starburst wrapper?

Quick Answer

No, it is not safe to eat the Starburst wrapper. The wrapper is made of plastic and contains chemicals that could be harmful if ingested. While swallowing a small piece of the wrapper likely won’t cause major issues, it’s best to avoid consuming the wrapper.

What is a Starburst Wrapper Made Of?

Starburst wrappers are made of plastic, specifically food-grade plastic. This allows the wrapper to be flexible and not leak any chemicals into the candy. The most common plastic used for candy wrappers is oriented polypropylene (OPP). This is a form of polypropylene plastic that is able to withstand higher temperatures needed during candy production.

Other plastics sometimes used for candy wrappers include:

– Polyester
– Polyethylene
– Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
– Cellophane

The exact materials used can vary between candy brands. But all candy wrappers, including Starburst, are designed to be food-safe and not contaminate the actual candy.

Is the Plastic Toxic?

The plastics used in candy wrappers are considered food-grade and non-toxic. This means they meet safety standards for coming into contact with food. The wrappers are also designed to not leach chemicals into the food they are wrapped around.

However, “non-toxic” doesn’t mean the plastics are completely inert or safe to eat. They are meant to safely hold food, not be ingested. The materials and dyes used in the plastic could potentially cause harm if swallowed.

Chemicals in Plastics

Some specific chemicals sometimes found in plastic food wrappers include:

– Phthalates: Used to make plastics more flexible, they have been linked to health issues like endocrine disruption.
– BPA: A chemical that can leach from plastics, it may cause hormone changes.
– Petroleum-based polymers: Many plastics contain chemicals derived from petroleum. Eating these could cause digestive issues.
– Titanium dioxide: A common food coloring that has been linked to inflammation.
– PFAS: Used in food wrappers as a grease barrier, these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances can persist in the body and environment.

The amount of chemical exposure from swallowing a wrapper would likely be minor. But it’s best to avoid ingesting these non-food materials whenever possible.

Risks of Eating a Candy Wrapper

While the plastic in candy wrappers is designed to be safe, ingesting it could potentially pose the following risks:

Choking Hazard

Like any other small, solid object, swallowing a piece of plastic wrapper could present a choking risk. This is especially true for small children who could choke on the wrapper or any small bits that may tear off.

Intestinal Blockage

Swallowing a large piece of wrapper could cause an intestinal blockage or bowel obstruction. This can cut off digested food from passing through the intestines. Surgery may be required to remove the obstruction.

Exposure to Chemicals

As mentioned earlier, chemicals used in plastic manufacturing could leach out of the wrapper when ingested. This likely won’t cause major issues from swallowing a small piece, but it’s an unnecessary exposure.

Bad Habit Formation

Eating non-food items like plastic wrappers can become a bad habit, especially for kids. This dangerous behavior, called pica, could lead to ingesting more harmful non-edibles. It’s best to avoid letting wrapper-eating become a habit.

Chronic Use Could Accumulate Risks

While an occasional accidental swallow of a plastic wrapper may not be a big deal, making a habit of eating them could increase potential risks. If plastic pieces or chemicals accumulate in the body over time, there may be impacts on health. But more research is needed on this.

Indigestible and Non-Nutritious

Candy wrappers are not formulated to be digested. Your body does not have the enzymes needed to break the plastic down. So a swallowed wrapper would travel intact through your digestive system until excreted in stool.

This could cause gastrointestinal issues if the plastic scrapes or irritates the linings of the digestive tract on the way through.

And of course, the wrapper contains no beneficial nutrients. So there is no advantage to eating it. At best, it will just pass through undigested.

How Long Does It Take to Digest a Candy Wrapper?

There have not been specific studies on the digestive transit time of swallowed candy wrappers. But we can estimate the time based on research on other foreign objects eaten:

– Plastic pieces usually take 2 to 5 days to pass through the gastrointestinal tract.

– Indigestible cellulose takes 24 to 72 hours for bowel elimination.

– For comparison, digestion of normal food takes 24 to 72 hours from eating to bowel elimination.

So a swallowed Starburst or other candy wrapper would likely take about 2 to 3 days to pass through the body as solid waste. This can vary based on size of the object, gastrointestinal motility, and other factors.

Monitoring stools for the next 3 days can help ensure it has passed through. Seek medical advice if symptoms like pain, constipation, or blockage develop.

Can Eating Candy Wrappers Ever be Safe?

The main concern with ingesting candy wrappers is the plastic itself, along with any inks and chemicals in the material. Therefore, some specialty products have been developed using more natural materials:

Edible Rice Paper Wrappers

Some small batch and artisanal candy makers use thinly rolled sheets of rice paper to wrap sweets. Rice paper is made from edible rice and water and is sometimes used as an edible wrapper.

It does not contain plastics or petroleum products. However, the adhesives used on them may still be indigestible and potentially harmful in large amounts.

Edible Wafer Paper

Wafer paper is another edible wrapper made from starch, tapioca, or rice flours. It can provide a thin, crisp encapsulation for candies.

While the base ingredients may be safe to eat, wafer paper can also have additional binders and preservatives added during processing. And ink from printing would still be inedible.

100% Natural Ingredient Wrappers

Truly natural and safe edible wrappers can be made using simple ingredients and no chemicals. For example, fruit roll up leathers can wrap chewy candies with no synthetic materials.

Completely unprocessed options like lettuce or other edible plant leaves can also wrap sweets naturally. But these have a short shelf life compared to plastic.

Can You Recycle Candy Wrappers?

Unfortunately most candy wrappers cannot be easily recycled for a few reasons:

– Small Size: Recycling equipment is not designed to capture small, lightweight wrappers. They can slip through sorting cracks.

– Plastic Mixing: Candy wrappers melt at lower temperatures than recyclable #1 and #2 plastics. When mixed together, the wrappers can ruin a whole recycled plastic batch.

– Food Residue: Leftover sticky candy stuck to wrappers also complicates recycling. The sugars and oils can gunk up recycling machines.

Therefore, most municipal recycling programs do not accept candy wrappers. A few specialty recyclers may take wrappers in limited areas, but this is not widely available.

So if you can’t reuse or compost the wrappers, the only option left is putting them in the trash. Hopefully candy companies will continue to innovate more sustainable packaging options.

Do Other Animals Eat Candy Wrappers?

Some animals have been observed eating candy wrappers and other plastic trash. However, this is not good or natural behavior:

Marine Animals

Sea turtles, fish, whales, and seabirds have been found with plastic blockages after ingesting trash like candy wrappers. The ocean plastic can resemble prey like jellyfish to some animals.

Discarded plastic also breaks down into small microplastic pieces. Filter feeders like oysters ingest these tiny fragments that float through water like plankton.

Cows and Other Livestock

Cows and sheep grazing on land may accidentally ingest plastic trash when eating grass and dirt. Candy and food wrappers littered into fields can then end up in the digestive tracts of grazing livestock.


Many terrestrial animals have been spotted eating candy wrappers and other plastic waste. This includes birds, squirrels, raccoons, foxes, and others. Scavenging animals are drawn to the scent of leftover candy stuck to the wrappers.


Dogs and cats may eat candy wrappers because of food smells, curiosity, boredom, or other factors. Pets can also accidentally ingest wrappers by eating garbage or finding litter outside.

Overall, while some animals eat wrappers, it is an unhealthy and dangerous behavior. Candy wrappers and other plastics do not provide nutrition to wildlife. And they can cause choking, digestive blockages, or even toxicity from accumulated chemicals.

It’s best to properly dispose of wrappers so they don’t endanger any curious critters.

Can Eating Candy Wrappers be Dangerous for Pets?

Yes, candy wrappers can potentially cause health issues for dogs and cats if eaten. Some specific risks include:

Choking Hazard

Like in humans, pets run the risk of choking on candy wrappers or fragments of plastic. Choking is especially dangerous for small dogs.

Intestinal Blockages

Cats and dogs have much shorter digestive tracts than humans. So an indigestible object like plastic has less space to pass through before potentially causing an obstruction. This can be fatal if untreated.

Cuts and Lacerations

Sharp plastic edges could scrape or cut sensitive intestinal linings as they move through a pet’s digestive system.

Toxin Exposure

Chemicals in plastics that are harmless in small amounts could leach out more rapidly in the warm, acidic environment inside a pet’s stomach. This could release toxins into their system.

For these reasons, candy wrappers and other plastics should be kept away from pets. Make sure trash is properly disposed of to avoid temptation. And contact your veterinarian if your pet eats a wrapper and seems unwell after.

Alternatives to Eating Candy Wrappers

Rather than eating Starburst wrappers, here are some safer ideas:

Eat the Candy!

Focus snack time on enjoying the sweet Starburst candy itself. Savor the flavorful juicy center and chewy texture of each colorful piece.

Recycle the Wrapper

Dispose of the wrapper properly and recycle it if programs exist in your area. Though not widely recyclable, search for specialty recyclers that may take candy wrappers in limited regions.

Reuse the Wrapper

Before tossing out, reuse the wrapper creatively first. Upcycle wrappers into arts and crafts, holiday ornaments, or save them to wrap small gifts or treats for others.

Choose Natural Chew Toys

For pets, provide safe chewing outlets like natural rubber or bamboo toys. These can relieve boredom and satisfy chewing urges without plastic ingestion.

Overall, while candy wrappers shouldn’t be eaten, there are many better and safer options for enjoying sweet treats!

The Bottom Line

While Starburst wrappers are designed to be safely in contact with food, they are still plastic and not intended to be eaten. Swallowing the wrapper could potentially cause choking or an intestinal blockage.

And plastic materials contain chemicals that could be harmful if leached out after ingestion, even though candy wrappers use food-grade plastics.

Eating plastic wrappers could also form an unhealthy habit, especially in pets or kids. While accidental swallows here and there likely won’t cause issues, it’s best not to make a habit of eating any non-food items.

In the end, unwrap and enjoy that sweet, fruity Starburst candy, but leave the plastic wrap behind! Dispose of it properly and let your body digest the nutrients from the candy rather than the indigestible wrapper.

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