Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers

By Valentina BaturinetsMay 7, 2024 09:10 AMBlog
Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers
Different food can be transported in airplanes, the main thing is to familiarize yourself with the rules of their transportation. Source: Freepik

In recent decades, there has been a clear trend towards increased restrictions in the transportation of foodstuffs. This is due to the fact that passengers are increasingly seeking to transport prohibited substances and items across national borders.

In addition to traditional checks at airports, enhanced security measures are used these days. These include specially trained dogs that help identify intruders, and specialized checks using X-rays. Many tourists are tempted to carry prohibited products, but you should nevertheless not break the order.

When traveling by air, it's always important to know which foods and liquids you can bring with you and which are prohibited by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Of course, food can also be purchased on the airplane, but it often doesn't meet the requirements and taste preferences of passengers. This is especially true for people who suffer from allergies and gastrointestinal illnesses. Many airlines have stopped selling food to passengers due to mass epidemics and, in particular, the coronavirus.

Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers
Eating on an airplane is not a bad option for snacking. Source: Pixels

On airplanes, travelers are offered food heated in plastic containers. It may look quite attractive, and its taste may be within the normal range, but home-cooked food is always a priority.

In this regard, the only true option is to stock up on provisions yourself, but only taking into account the requirements of the Transportation Security Service. If you have a long journey ahead of you, worry about the food that will come in handy on the way.

In our article we want to "shed light" on the topical subject of what food can be carried in airplanes in hand luggage and checked baggage.

Features of food offered in airplanes

Of course, food on airplanes should not be neglected. For example, in the United States of America, huge sums are allocated to the food industry in airlines, up to 6 billion dollars annually. Food is prepared in specialized places, under the strict control of professional chefs and using a clear recipe.

Once at the airports, the food is transferred to the airplanes, where it is stored in refrigerators and heated before being served to customers. Only dishes that retain their original properties under changing pressures and altitudes are included in the menu.

When preparing dishes for airlines, specialists take into account that people's taste perceptions change. When buying food in airliners, you should always take into account that it can contain a large amount of sodium. This can negatively affect the health of passengers and the cardiovascular system in particular.

There are certain standards to establishments that specialize in catering food. Every 3-5 years, the FDA organizes inspections aimed at detecting errors in this area for further elimination. One should always keep in mind that even finding violations and imposing sanctions on catering establishments does not rule out further violations, so home-cooked food is always safer.

Rule 3-1-1

When transporting liquids, use the 3-1-1 rule. This means that you can take a bag of liquids and gels, creams, pastes and aerosols of a certain volume on the road. These can be placed in containers, and each item should not weigh more than 3.4 ounces. If you are carrying larger volumes of liquids and pastes, they should be placed in checked baggage.

Vegetables and fruits

The Transportation Security Administration only allows you to carry whole fruits and vegetables in containers or other packages. They can be placed both in hand luggage and in checked baggage. If the fruit or vegetables are mashed, the 3.4 ounce rule applies.

Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers
Vegetables and fruits can be transported on an airplane under one condition - that they are whole. Source: Pixels

It is worth bearing in mind that some countries have limits on the importation of exotic fruits. In the US, for example, there are restrictions on transportation of fruit from Hawaii, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to the mainland due to the increased risk of invasive plant pests.

Dried fruit

While there are nuances with fresh fruit, dried fruit can be transported provided it is well packaged.

Baked goods

All kinds of baked goods can be carried on the plane, including pies and cupcakes, cookies and cakes, gingerbread and doughnuts. If you wish, you can bring along bread or pizza in an airtight container. The only thing is, you may not be allowed to put them on the top shelf, but will be asked to keep them to yourself.

Children's food

The Transportation Security Administration is loyal to the transportation of children's food. This kind of food is not subject to the 3.4 ounce limit like other liquids. Before inspecting your bags, warn the inspectors about the presence of baby food in your luggage - in reasonable quantities, it is not prohibited for transportation. The same goes for solid foods and beverages for young travelers.


You can carry freshly brewed coffee through TSA checkpoints, with only one condition - if it doesn't weigh more than 3.4 ounces. If you are carrying coffee in bean or ground form, there are no restrictions.

Candy and sweets

Hard candies and sweets in airtight packaging can be safely transported on airplanes. They can be placed in hand luggage or checked baggage.

Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers
Sweets are allowed to be carried on airplanes, you just need to worry about practical packaging. Source: Pixels

Meat Products

Somebody, but meat lovers may not have to worry - you are allowed to take meat both raw and cooked in your travel bag. The only thing you need to worry about in such a case is airtight vacuum packaging to prevent liquid leaks or the spread of odors.

Be prepared to be asked by TSA officials to temporarily remove meat products from your bag before being checked with an X-ray device.

Fresh meat should be transported frozen in a container. The most practical option for freezing food is dry ice packs, which should weigh at least 5.5 pounds.

Important: If you plan to travel to the United States from other countries around the world, be prepared for special meat inspections. Clarify which types of meat are allowed to enter the country here and which are not.

Alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages are subject to the standard restrictions that apply to liquids. The Transportation Security Administration allows alcohol in 3.4 ounce bottles, which are placed in quart-sized plastic bags.

Bottles of alcohol may be carried in checked baggage, sealed and in their original packaging. As a rule, drinking alcohol on board airplanes is prohibited, except when provided by the airline.

Important: Alcohol with a strength of more than 70% is prohibited to take with you on the plane, and you will not be allowed to carry it even in your checked baggage. This includes grain alcohol, some types of whiskey and absinthe, rum and liqueurs, including Everclear, so always pay attention to the strength of the alcoholic beverage before buying a gift bottle.

Hard foods and cheeses

Dry foods such as nuts and cereals, cheeses and chocolate, beans and pasta are allowed on airplanes and can be transported in large quantities. For processed cheeses, however, the familiar 3.4 ounce rule applies.


Salad greens are approved for air transportation, but if you want to bring your salad dressing with you, you must transport it in a separate 3.4 ounce container. It's not a bad option to mix the salad before going through security to keep the dish fresher longer.

Vegetable oil, vinegar and honey

A bottle of cold-pressed olive oil will be a great gift for family and friends in memory of a trip to overseas countries. To transport it, it must be checked in checked baggage. The same applies to honey, vinegar and other liquid mediums. If, however, you want to put them in your own bag that will always be handy, just stick to the 3-1-1 rule.


Dried spices can be freely transported under one condition - they must be labeled and hermetically sealed. They can be placed in both carry-on and checked baggage.

Foods allowed by TSA for air travel: detailed instructions for travelers
Spices can be taken with you on an airplane. Source: Pixels

Protein and energy powders

The same rules work for these products as for spices. The key is to make sure labeling and packaging meet shipping requirements.

Jams, peanut butter and spreads

The 3-1-1 rule applies not only to liquid but also to paste-like products, so jams, spreads, peanut butter and other formulations with a gel consistency can be taken on a plane in containers up to 3.4 ounces.

Yogurts, sauces and other liquid products

Liquid foods, including yogurts, sauces and gravies, can be carried in containers up to 3.4 ounces that can fit in your carry-on baggage. If liquid foods are larger than 3.4 ounces, they can be carried in checked baggage. A suitable option for transporting liquid food is in frozen form.

If you are planning to travel on an international flight, pay attention to the restrictions that apply to bringing food across country borders. For example, China does not allow the transportation of raw foods, including milk, raw meat and vegetables.

Important: Carefully study the customs standards of the country you are going to visit. This will help you avoid the hassle of food confiscation. For example, in the United States, the list of products that are allowed by the Transportation Control Administration is strictly prohibited by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Now you know what foods are allowed to be carried on airplanes, by the Transportation Security Administration. Use the materials presented in our article as a handy cheat sheet, but always check with official sources, as TSA standards change and adjust frequently. Give preference to home-cooked food prepared by yourself, but don't be very categorical about airplane food either.

Have a great trip with exceptionally pleasant emotions!

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