Can You Bring Food Through TSA?

by Ann deBruyn

Sitting on a plane for long stretches of time without comforting snacks can make a long flight feel even longer. If you want to save money by packing your own food, it’s smart to understand what kinds of sustenance you can bring through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.

Can you take food through TSA? The short answer is yes: You can bring food through security — as long as it meets other checkpoint requirements . Liquid foods come under particular scrutiny.

But before you decide to pack your own snacks or purchase something tasty in the terminal instead, find out more about the kinds of foods and snacks you can bring through TSA.

According to the TSA website, travelers are able to bring solid food items onto a plane in either carry-on or checked baggage. Liquid and gel snacks are allowed in a carry-on only if they abide by the 3-1-1 rule; liquid size and quantity don't matter in checked bags, though overweight bags may carry additional fees.

The 3-1-1 rule states that you’re allowed to bring one quart-sized bag of items such as liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in a carry-on through the TSA checkpoint. All items in the bag are limited to travel-sized containers that are a maximum of 3.4 ounces (or 100 milliliters) in volume.

There are some exceptions to amount limitations for certain items, such as breast milk. Here’s a summary of TSA food rules.

Item

Allowed in carry-on?

Allowed in checked bag?

Alcoholic beverages

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof

No.

No.

Baby food

Yes (reasonable quantities).

Yes.

Baby formula

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Bottled water

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Bread

Yes.

Yes.

Breast milk

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Candy

Yes.

Yes.

Canned foods

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Cereal

Yes.

Yes.

Creamy cheese

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Solid cheese

Yes.

Yes.

Liquid chocolate

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Solid chocolate

Yes.

Yes.

Coffee grounds or beans

Yes.

Yes.

Coffee (liquid)

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Cooked meat, seafood and vegetables (no liquid)

Yes.

Yes.

Cookies and crackers

Yes.

Yes.

Creamy dips and spreads

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Dried fruits

Yes.

Yes.

Fresh eggs

Yes.

Yes.

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Fresh meat and seafood

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Frozen food

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Gel ice packs

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Gravy

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Gum

Yes.

Yes.

Honey

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Hummus

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Ice cream

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Jam/jelly

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Juice for baby

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Juices

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Live lobster

Maybe (check with airline).

Yes.

Maple syrup

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Nuts

Yes.

Yes.

Oils and vinegars

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Peanut butter

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Solid pet food

Yes.

Yes.

Wet pet food

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Pies and cakes

Yes.

Yes.

Pizza

Yes.

Yes.

Protein or energy powders

Yes.

Yes.

Salad dressing

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Salsa and sauces

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Salt

Yes.

Yes.

Sandwiches

Yes.

Yes.

Snack bar

Yes.

Yes.

Snacks

Yes.

Yes.

Sodas

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Solid foods

Yes.

Yes.

Soups

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

Spices

Yes.

Yes.

Tea leaves

Yes.

Yes.

Water for babies

Yes (special instructions).

Yes.

Yogurt

Yes (up to 3.4 ounces).

Yes.

The TSA food rules apply to all passengers, regardless of if you’re heading through the general security line or expediting the process with a Clear or TSA PreCheck membership .

Can you bring your own food through TSA?

You might already have some snacks in your pantry that would make great company on your next flight. If you’re flying domestically, solid snacks are good to go — as are liquids or gels that meet the above 3-1-1 rules.

Nerdy tip: Consider organizing your carry-on bag such that snacks are separate from other items. This step could ease the screening process and ideally keep the lines moving if any of your items require a special inspection.

Note that certain items require special instructions; for instance, passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the contiguous U.S. cannot travel with most fresh fruits and vegetables. Other items with special instructions include:

  • Baby formula.

  • Breast milk.

  • Fresh meat and seafood.

  • Frozen food.

  • Juice or water for a baby.

Can you bring open food through TSA?

If you couldn’t wait to break into your cheesy popcorn or protein bar, there’s no need to toss your half-eaten item ahead of the TSA checkpoint. You can bring open food through security so long as it abides by the 3-1-1 and other TSA food rules.

Following the same logic and limitations, you can also bring unopened, prepackaged or sealed food through TSA.

Can you bring fast food through TSA?

Good news for lovers of quick hamburgers and chicken fingers: You can bring fast food through TSA too. Keep in mind that most fast food drinks won't be eligible unless they're 3.4 ounces or smaller in size.

Can you bring baby food on a plane?

Breast milk and formula are considered medically necessary liquids by the TSA, and the agency states that baby food is allowed in “reasonable quantities” rather than the limitations of other liquids. Examples of allowable baby food include formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces. Because of their special status, these items don't need to fit within a quart-sized bag.

The TSA requests that parents traveling with baby food remove these items from the carry-on bag for separate screening from other belongings.

Nerdy tip: You do not need to be traveling with your child in order to bring breast milk.

Note that accessories needed to cool baby food — such as ice packs, freezer packs or frozen gel packs — are allowed in your carry-on, regardless of the presence of breast milk.

Does the TSA allow baby food pouches? Yes; even if your pouches exceed 3.4 ounces in size, these items are allowed due to the “reasonable quantities” exception detailed above.

Can you bring alcohol through TSA?

Travelers can bring alcohol through TSA, but the rules vary depending on how strong a particular substance is.

  • Alcohol up to 70% alcohol by volume (140 proof): Limited to containers of 3.4 ounces or less that can fit in a quart-sized bag.

  • Alcohol over 70% alcohol by volume or over 140 proof: Not allowed.

Foods you can't pack in your carry-on

Liquid or creamy snack items are tricky to pack in a carry-on, especially if you’re trying to abide by the 3.4-ounce rules.

Examples of foods that you can’t pack in a carry-on include most full-sized containers of:

  • Creamy dips, spreads and cheeses.

  • Gravy.

  • Peanut butter.

  • Salad dressings, oils, vinegars.

  • Salsas and other sauces.

  • Any liquid drink, such as soda or coffee.

  • Yogurt.

  • Soup.

Many of these options are available once you’ve gotten through security, so some cravings can still be satisfied before boarding.

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