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Can You Bring Food on a Plane? (According to TSA)

snack and meal on a plane

Heightened airport security measures and TSA rules have made traveling much safer. However, they’ve also made flying a little bit of a hassle. One issue that many people have is knowing if you can bring food on a plane, and if so, what are the guidelines?

While packing something like a homemade sandwich, energy drink, bag of chips, or chocolate bar may seem harmless, certain travel restrictions could end up getting you removed from your flight or even forcing you to throw prepacked items away.

That said, in this article, we’re going to dive into what foods can be brought aboard flights, which foods can’t, and some tips that can make sure your next flight gets you through the TSA without any issues.

Quick Summary

  • Only certain types of food that are regulated by the Transportation Security Administration can be brought onto flights after being checked.
  • The TSA has a list of approved snacks and items that can be brought onto flights, including baby formula, breast milk, fresh eggs, and fresh fruits.
  • There are a few additional items that can be brought onto a plane, including alcoholic beverages if special instructions are followed beforehand.

Can you Bring Food Through TSA?

tsa security control airport
Courtesy of Jonathan Cutrer @ Flickr

Typically, yes, you can bring food through the TSA as long as it’s being transported properly and meets the checkpoint security requirements.

Even alcoholic drinks can be carried onto a flight, as can other liquids, but only if they’re less than or equal to 3.4oz/100ml. However, there are certain restrictions, notably if you’re traveling abroad.

For example, travelers flying to or from the U.S. mainland, particularly Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands, cannot travel with fresh fruits and vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive pests.

The types of food you can travel with even include fast food or open snacks that you might be eating as you’re boarding your flight.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that even though the TSA has a list of pre-approved items, you may still have to undergo additional screening procedures if something you have raises security concerns.

Can you Pack Food in a Carry-On Bag?

inside of a plane
Courtesy of Mel Green @ Flickr

You can pack certain foods in a carry-on bag as long as you acknowledge what those foods are, and that they will have to undergo screening and inspection before boarding your flight.

The reason for this is because of how some foods look when scanned under an x-ray. This eliminates the concern of people trying to smuggle contraband within certain types of produce.

Items such as gels, creamy dips, and pastes must comply with the TSA’s 3.4oz/100ml requirement, also known as the 3-1-1 rule.

As long as your foods are in travel-sized containers, they usually fall within compliance, which includes canned foods and frozen foods.

However, another factor to consider is that even though foods packed in carry-on bags might be in reasonable quantities, the closer something is to a liquid, the more scrutiny it’ll be under.

To minimize the hassle, foods packed in carry-on bags should follow all special storage instructions. Ideally, you shouldn’t be carrying too many flaggable or liquid items.

Can you Carry Food in a Checked Bag?

Delta News Hub
Courtesy of Delta News Hub @ Flickr

Foods can be carried in a checked bag. In fact, the requirements for checked bags are a little laxer than the requirements for carry-on bags.

Since carry-on luggage will be in the cabin with you and exposed to other passengers, TSA guidelines are very strict about the packaging of foods and liquids.

Nothing in checked baggage should be loose or spilling out, and the items in a carry-on will probably be examined more closely.

However, checked bags, which are placed in an inaccessible section of the plane, have different rules. For example, the reasonable quantities rule for liquids doesn’t apply.

Additionally, foods that might be prohibited in a carry-on may not be the same for checked luggage. The weight requirement is also more forgiving.

The weight requirement for carry-ons is around 35lbs maximum, while checked bags can weigh up to around 50lbs before extra fees kick in, allowing you to store more food.

TSA-Approved Snacks and Meals

There are many TSA-approved snacks and meals, which have different storage requirements depending on whether they’re in checked bags or carry-ons.

Usually, most people will be concerned with what items they can store in carry-on bags, since those are the only things you’ll have access to for the whole flight.

That said, your own food that’s been pre-packaged, like energy bars, fruits, sandwiches, and candy are just a few items from the list we’re about to give you below.

This list includes, but is not limited to, the snacks that can normally make it through airport security without issue:

  • Bread
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Baby food and baby formula
  • Ice cream
  • Cereal
  • Baked goods
  • Juice/Water
  • Chips
  • Solid cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Cooked meat/Seafood/Vegetables
  • Cookies
  • Nuts
  • Pizza
  • Yogurt

As we’ve stated, this is not a comprehensive snack list. However, it does include some of the common snacks people like to bring on a flight. Although, some of these can differ by region, so always check in with your chosen airline before settling on what foods to pack.

What Foods are not Allowed on Planes?

live lobster

While the TSA food rules are surprisingly lenient, there are a few items that absolutely cannot be brought on a plane, regardless of what type of bag they’re stored in. These include the following:

  • Peanut butter/Jelly
  • Ice cream
  • Canned goods
  • Hummus
  • Yogurt

Now, you may notice that there’s some overlap from the previous list of foods that can be brought onto a plane. That’s because this list includes foods that are also measured as liquids, and thereby subject to the 3.4 ounces rule.

If you have any foods that exceed this amount, you’ll either have to downsize before boarding your flight or dispose of them completely.

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Tips and Recommendations

All in all, it’s very possible to bring food on a plane, but you need to know the guidelines of your specific airline if you have any questions or concerns.

The most important tip when taking food would be to have everything organized and to be able to tell the TSA agent exactly what you brought. Confusion might lead to the disposal of your items.

Another recommendation would be to forego liquids if possible, this includes anything that’s measured as a liquid, like dips and spreads. The fewer liquids you have, the less likely it’ll be you exceed the 3.4 ounces rule.


Can You Eat on a Plane?

You can eat on a plane as long as the food you’re carrying is within TSA regulations and properly stored. For the most part, as long as your food is solid, there’s a good chance it can come on the plane with you.

Can You Bring a Pizza on a Plane?

You can bring pizza on a plane. Pizza is one of the foods on the TSA’s approved items list that’s marked as permissible for both carry-on and checked bags.

Does Food Count as Luggage?

Food does count as luggage. Anything that’s stored with your belongings and placed in a compartment specifically made for your travel items counts as luggage.

Can We Carry Food on International Flights?

You can carry food on international flights. However, remember that airline guidelines differ by region. You may be able to fly with certain types of foods domestically, but internationally, it may be prohibited due to environmental concerns.

Can You Bring Frozen Food on a Plane?

You can bring ice packs and frozen foods on a plane. If your food is packed with ice or a cooler, it must be completely frozen when screened at the TSA security checkpoints. If the ice is melted in any way, it won’t be permitted on the plane.