Surprising Foods You Can (and Can’t) Take Through Airport Security

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With staffing shortages paired with the highest volume of travelers the country has seen since before the pandemic, experts are expecting air travel this summer to be nothing short of “chaotic. With long security wait times on the horizon, the Transportation Security Administration is already warning air travelers against accidentally bringing prohibited items in their carry-ons—and some of those prohibited items are foods. So before you hop in the security line this summer, get to know the rules surrounding these eight foods.

A solid cheese will get through airport security no problem, but if you plan on bringing a creamy cheese in your carry-on bag, you may run into some trouble. According to the TSA, creamy cheeses are treated like liquids, which means they are allowed, but only in increments of 3.4 ounces or less. But where does solid cheese end a creamy cheese begin? According to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, “If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, it’s a liquid.” 

Fruits and vegetables have a few caveats. They are allowed in your carry-on bag, so long as they are in a solid form, not liquid or gels (i.e., a pineapple is fine, but a pineapple fruit cup must abide by the 3.4 ounce rule). Additionally, the TSA notes that passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland “cannot take most fresh fruits and vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.”

Frozen food is allowed in your carry on bag, under the right circumstances. The TSA writes, “If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.” So it’s possible to bring frozen food on your flight, but it’s up to the discretion of the TSA agent if it’s truly frozen, leaving you in a race against time.

Shockingly, there are situations where you’re allowed to bring a live lobster through airport security. The TSA writes, “A live lobster is allowed through security and must be transported in a clear, plastic, spill proof container. A TSA officer will visually inspect your lobster at the checkpoint. We recommend that you contact your airline to determine your airline’s policy on traveling with your lobster before arriving at the airport.” The TSA is right; it’d be a shame to bring a live lobster all the way through security only to have your gate agent tell you that it actually belongs in your checked bag.

If you’re trying to bring traditional ice cream through security in your carry-on bag, it’s going to be subject to the 3.4 ounce rule. But if you’re willing to get a little creative, no such rule applies to bringing astronaut ice cream onto a plane.

On its own, the TSA qualifies peanut butter as a liquid, making it subject to the 3.4 ounce rule. Rather than argue with the TSA agent about where exactly a solid state ends and the liquid state begins, instead try checking out these TSA-approved peanut butter pouches from Skippy if you really can’t make it a whole flight without your peanut butter fix.

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