TSA Food Rules: What Foods Can You Bring on a Plane?

A visit home can mean your parents are going to insist that you bring home enough food to fill your fridge until December vacation. It could also mean that you want to bring your favorite neighborhood bakes home for your family to experience. However, there are specific rules and regulations you should keep in mind before checking in for your flight.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to navigate what you can and can’t take with you when traveling through the airport. It ultimately comes down to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rules. Above all, you’ll want to keep in mind the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for liquids, which means you can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, sprays, gels, creams, and pastes. These are limited to travel containers of 3.4 ounces or less per item, including when it comes to food.

If you are unsure if you can take anything through security, you should consider packing it securely in your checked baggage rather than your carry-on. Here’s what you need to know to travel with your favorite foods.

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The TSA allows an unlimited number of cooked meats to be carried in carry-on baggage as well as checked baggage. Note that TSA agents may ask you to remove leftover turkey, fish, or vegetables from your bag if they are clogging other items in the x-ray machine.

Do you bring creamy or solid cheese with you? This will make a difference when it comes to the TSA screening process. Although solid cheese is allowed, you cannot carry cream cheeses over 3.4 ounces. For solid and creamy cheeses, this may require additional security screening.

Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables

Mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables are permitted in your carry-on and checked baggage as long as they are separated from sauces or stews. If you have liquid in your vegetables, you’ll want to make sure it’s less than or equal to 3.4 ounces.

If you happen to have fresh vegetables or raw vegetables in your leftovers, you’ll want to be a little more careful. Travelers from Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands to the US mainland will not be permitted to bring most fresh vegetables due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.

Baby food and formula as well as breast milk are allowed “in reasonable amounts” while wearing them. You may need to remove these items from your bag to be examined separately.

Pies and cakes

Good news for those looking to bring something sweet with them, as pies and cakes are allowed through security. They may require additional screening.

In general, canned foods are allowed. However, the TSA recommends keeping them in your checked bag, as some canned foods may be subject to additional screening due to their appearance on the x-ray machine or they do not meet the 3-1 rules. -1 for liquids, gels and aerosols.

Wine and other alcoholic beverages containing less than 70% alcohol by volume are permitted in checked baggage in limited quantities (up to 1.3 gallons per passenger) and must be unopened and in their original packaging. Note that mini bottles of wine or liquor are permitted in carry-on baggage as long as they fit in a single pint bag.

If you’re traveling across the country with leftovers, it makes sense that you’ll want to keep them fresh during transport. Frozen ice packs are allowed through security as long as they are frozen at the time of security screening. If your ice pack is even partially melted or muddy, it will not pass inspection.

Understanding the rules and regulations for traveling with food is one thing, but you’ll also want to make sure all that good stuff is properly sealed and won’t leak in your luggage. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite reusable travel food containers to make sure your leftovers arrive safe and sound.

This set of multi-purpose food storage containers is a game changer for traveling with leftovers. Not only is it completely transparent and easy for TSA agents to instantly see what you’ve packed, it’s also made from high-quality glass and BPA-free plastic.

If you’re planning on packing a lot of leftovers or hoping to check out most of the goods in your suitcase, you might want to consider something with an extra snap closure. Rubbermaid Brilliance Storage offers a 100% leak-proof design that is both BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.

Stasher Platinum reusable food grade silicone storage bag

You don’t need a cupboard full of reusable containers if all you plan to pack are some turkey sandwiches for the road. Consider the Stasher storage bag as a more eco-friendly and durable alternative to a single-use plastic bag like Ziploc.

Rubbermaid TakeAlongs Twist & Seal Food Storage Containers ($9.11; amazon.com)

This Rubbermaid “Twist and Seal” food storage solution is a great option for everything from small snacks and veggies to sauces and sauces. The leak-proof design mimics that of a childproof medicine bottle and won’t come loose or open in your bag.

This pie holder from Sweet Creations is large enough to hold an entire small pie, and the locking system allows for easy transportation through the airport and beyond.

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