Can You Bring Food Through TSA?

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.

Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof

Yes (reasonable quantities).

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Cooked meat, seafood and vegetables (no liquid)

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Yes (special instructions).

Maybe (check with airline).

Protein or energy powders

Yes (special instructions).

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.

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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:

  • 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.

  • Salad dressings, oils, vinegars.

  • Any liquid drink, such as soda or coffee.

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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