The short answer is yes. You can bring almost all kinds of food on a plane. However, there are certain rules for different types of foods. This article explains everything you need to know about bringing food or your favorite snacks on a plane.
Please note that this post is written regarding TSA rules about bringing food on a plane. The rules may vary when traveling to other countries. So, don’t forget to check with relevant authorities before packing to avoid inconvenience at security clearance. Moreover, the final decision to allow a certain item rests with the TSA officer.
Liquids Rule – The 3-1-1 Rule
The liquids rule applies to liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, pastes, and foods that can pop out when squeezed, such as peanut butter. Food items like water, soda, and sauces must also comply with this rule. Such items are limited to travel-sized containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item for carry-on bags. Items larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 millimeters must be packed in checked baggage.
All liquids must fit in a clear plastic quart-size zip-top bag; only one bag per passenger is allowed. The 3-1-1 rule can be easily understood as follows.
- 3.4 ounces
- 1 quart-sized bag
- 1 bag per passenger
If the amount of liquid food in a container is less than 3.4 ounces, the size will be determined by the bottle’s size. Hence, liquid food in bottles exceeding 3.4 ounces will not be cleared as carry-on items. They must be packed in checked bags.
Cheese, Mayonnaise, and Spreadable Foods
These items must be packed in compliance with the 3-1-1 liquids rule in carry-on bags. Larger bottles will go in checked bags.
Solid cheese and solid chocolate bars are not considered liquid, and you don’t have to follow the 3-1-1 rule.
Canned foods are allowed in carry-on (with special instruction) and checked bags. TSA says that some items may need additional screening and may not be allowed based on how they appear on X-ray screening, security concerns, and the 3-1-1 rule. TSA further recommends packing canned food in checked bags, shipping it to your destination, or avoiding taking it.
All bottled items comply with the liquid rule. So, follow it while packing to avoid any inconvenience or delays during security clearance.
- Alcoholic beverages over 140 proof (more than 70% alcohol), including grain alcohol and 151 proof rum, are not allowed in carry-on and checked bags.
- Alcoholic beverages with more than 24% but less than 70% alcohol are allowed but with certain terms and conditions. You can pack bottles less than or equal to 3.4 oz/100 ml in carry-on bags and up to 5 liters (1.3 gallons) in checked bags. The retail packing must not be opened. Alcoholic beverages with less than 24% alcohol or less do not have any limitations in checked bags.
- The same rules apply to wine bottles.
Meat and Seafood
- Cooked Meat & Seafood: It is allowed in carry-on and checked bags if it is not liquid.
- Fresh Meat & Seafood: It is also allowed in carry-on (with special institutions) and checked luggage.
- Frozen Food: Frozen food is allowed in carry-on bags (with special instructions) and checked bags.
Special Instructions from TSA
Meat, seafood, vegetables, and other non-liquid food items are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed using ice or ice packs, the ice must be completely frozen when brought through screening. The container will not be allowed if the ice has melted or there is liquid at the bottom.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Dried fruits are allowed in carry-on and checked bags.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are permitted in carry-on and checked bags. However, due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests, you cannot take most fresh fruits and vegetables if you are flying into the mainland U.S. from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Pies, Cakes, Breads, and Fresh Eggs
All these are allowed in carry-on and checked bags.
Sandwiches, Cookies, Pizza, and Snacks
All of them are permitted in carry-on and check bags.
The 3-1-1 rule doesn’t apply to baby food such as formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food, as they are considered medically necessary. The same rule applies to breast milk and formula cooling accessories like ice, freezer, and gel packs.
Before the screening, tell the TSA officer if you carry these items above 3.4 ounces. TSA recommends packing these items in clear, translucent bottles instead of plastic bags or pouches.
You can ask the TSA officer to skip X-ray scanning and bottle opening. It requires additional steps to clear the liquid and passenger, such as Advanced Imaging Technology screening and enhanced screening for other carry-on property.
Can I bring a Live Lobster on a Plane?
Surprisingly yes, you can bring a live lobster on a plane. It is allowed in checked bags, but you must check with the airline if you want to take it as a carry-on item. The lobster must be packed in a clear, plastic, and spill-proof container. The TSA officer will visually inspect the lobster at the checkpoint, so be prepared for an additional screening time.
Which food items I can’t take on a plane?
TSA prohibits no food items, but remember the 3-1-1 rule for liquids to avoid inconvenience. Similarly, there are some restrictions on carrying alcohol, and fresh fruit & vegetables from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland.
Can you Bring Homemade food on a Plane?
Yes. You can bring homemade food on a plane. However, the same rules apply to homemade foods. Frozen homemade (not liquid such as gels, sauces, and gravy) can be packed as carry-on or checked luggage. Liquid or gel foods larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags.
Can you Bring Food on a Plane to Canada?
Yes. You can bring food on a plane to Canada. However, some food items may be subject to restriction. You can read more about it on CATSA’s website.
TSA has answered your questions about almost all types of foods on its website. Click here to find out more about packing your desired item. You can also download MyTSA App or get in touch with TSA via its Facebook or Twitter handles.