What’s Up With The TSA Making You Remove Snacks From Your Carry-On?

by SharonKurheg

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) seems to be in a state of flux lately when it comes to snacks. As I’ve combed through message boards, I’ve seen person after person say how they had to empty all of the snacks in their carry on bag(s), when they had read the rules on TSA’s website before they flew and really weren’t expecting to have to go through all of that. So what’s going on?

According to TSA’s website:

Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked baggage.

TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine. Travelers are encouraged to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving.

OK, so TSA may ask you to remove the snacks from your bag if they make it harder to see clear images on X-ray. Operative word of “may,” which would lead you to believe that it doesn’t happen very often.

But apparently a LOT of people at a LOT of airports are being asked to remove all of their snacks from their bags before they go through X-ray and have them go in a bin through X-ray, on their own (like how computer would go through). And if you don’t remove all your snacks (say you missed one) and whatever you neglected to remove causes issues with clarity of seeing all the stuff in your carry on when it goes through the scanner, your bag might have to go through enhanced inspection.


MMRKT.jpgAgain, there’s nothing documented on TSA’s website that say it’s going to happen often, but that’s how it’s happening. Very often, people are being told asked to remove their snacks from their carry-on bags. Now granted, if all you have is a sandwich and a bag of chips, that won’t be very difficult. But if you’re going home from Walt Disney World and were on the Disney Dining Plan and didn’t use up all your credits so you bought three dozen chocolate covered Rice Krispie Treats in the shape of Mickey Mouse heads at the last second and put them into your carry on, it might take you more than a little extra time to pull those all out and put them all back.


Sign at Orlando Int’l Airport / PC: Christian Damon

Oh, and by the way, if you’re on the TSA Pre-Check line? They probably won’t do this to  you and your snacks can remain in your bags.

So what’s my advice? Well…

#1, don’t argue with them. They’re the TSA and, short of the people at the airline’s check-in desk, they’re the first people who are allowed to say you can’t board your plane if you cause a fuss. So don’t cause a fuss.

#2, plan how you pack your carry on. If you’ve got snacks in your bags (and especially if you have a lot of snacks in your bags), pack them so they’re ready and easily accessible if you’re told to remove all of your snacks from your bags.

#3, consider putting the snacks in your checked baggage. This might not be ideal with something melty, like chocolate, in the summertime, but perhaps some of your foods could be checked.

#4, perhaps you can mail your snacks and food home. This would depend on circumstances, especially comparing costs of shipping a bag of food home vs. checking another suitcase, but it’s another option.

#5, as I said, as of this writing, people in the TSA Pre-Check line generally aren’t being asked to pull all of their snacks out of their bags, so it’s just ONE MORE REASON to consider getting TSA-Pre-Check.

Good luck!

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Beth July 20, 2018 - 6:59 am

I have TSA precheck and not only did they pull my bag out for further inspection, they held me for about 10 minutes while they went through my snacks (i had a bag of granola bars). He handed me back my bag of granola bars and said “enjoy your snacks” and kind of laughed/snorted. Next trip I took the bag out ahead of time and put it in the bin with purse. TSA guy started telling me I didn’t have to take it out since I was precheck. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Peter Marcus November 18, 2019 - 1:37 pm

I had a half-full bag of raisin bran cereal that caused a hand inspection of my carry-on. Another time I had a large number of coins-nickels, dimes, quarters, and a few dollar coins from a metro ticket machine –maybe $6 or $7 total. That caused a hand search of the outer flap zipper area of my carry-on. The TSA worker said to me “use vending machines more often.”


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