Can You Bring Food Through Airport Security?

Can You Bring Food Through Airport Security?

By Jaqueline Junginger・Last updated on 14 March 2024

If you’ve ever had to eat stale, overpriced food when you fly, you have probably asked yourself, can I bring food through airport security? Bringing your own food in your carry-on luggage would be convenient, and not to mention cheaper too. It would be a great way to keep your hunger pangs at bay while waiting between in-flight meals.

But with security agents becoming stricter than ever, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what is and isn’t allowed on a flight. Many people have had to throw away entire bottles of water when passing through security, or have had jars of jam confiscated. So can you take your own snacks on a plane?

It depends. Here's everything you need to know. 

Can I Bring Food Through Airport Security?

So, can you actually bring food through airport security and onto the plane, or do you have to settle for subpar snacks from the cart?

Well, the short answer is yes, you can. You may absolutely bring your own food, as long as it meets the airline’s standards. Of course, international flights tend to be a little stricter compared to domestic flights, but most airlines allow you to take food on the plane with no problem.

However, before you decide to bring your own food on the plane, remember that most security personnel may ask you to place all food items in a separate bin from your luggage to allow for closer inspection. If you are in a rush, this can easily add several more minutes to the time spent passing through security checkpoints. You should also be prepared to answer several questions about what you are bringing on board. This entire process can sometimes lead to delays

If your flight do happens to be delayed and you have to wait in the airport, having some nice snacks on hand that aren't overpriced could be a good thing. Just remember that in case you're eligible for compensation for a flight delay

Assorted nuts
Image by Untavilordo on Pixabay 

Can I Take Snacks Through Airport Security?

As a general rule, you’ll want to bring solid, dry foods that have been properly sealed in a leak-proof container. Snacks in their original packaging usually pass, as they are sealed, properly labeled, and easy to identify. So feel free to bring in those packs of peanuts and protein bars! 

Can I Bring Cookies Through Airport Security?

Some good news for those of you with a sweet tooth: Yes, you can have cookies on an airplane! Most cookies, bread, and other baked goods can easily be taken through airport security. In other words, you can totaly take packaged snacks on plane.

In fact, you can even bring a whole cake, provided it is properly sealed in its packaging and does not contain any liquid. For example, an apple cake or a chocolate cake will probably go through just fine, but something like a jelly cake, an ice cream cake, or a soft cheesecake, will probably be denied.

Cheesecake? But That’s Not a Liquid! 

Soft cheeses classify under liquids
Image by Jill111

Yes, items like cheesecakes probably won’t go through. Why? Because it is considered a liquid.

Most flyers are familiar with the 3-1-1 rule for liquids, which states that you can only take 3.4 oz or 100 milliliters of liquid per container and that all of these individual containers must fit in a single, one-quart size bag. So 3.4 oz, 100 milliliters, and one-quart result in “3-1-1”.

While this rule is easy enough to follow, it does cause confusion if a food item contains no obvious visible liquids. For example, canned goods are a common source of confusion, but so are jams, gels, condiments, and most types of sauces or gravy.

Even certain types of cheese, which usually look like a solid if covered in a crust, still fall under this rule. Cheeses like camembert, brie, and blue cheese are all considered liquids and must comply with the 3-1-1 rule.

In fact, all types of pastes and creamy foods are considered liquid, including butter, peanut butter, chocolate spread, pâté, hummus, and yes, even cheesecake.

Can I bring distilled water on a plane? 

Carrying water has always been a problem when traveling, as liquids in general cannot go past security. It doesn't matter whether it's distilled, sparkling, otherwise. However, you can still take water onto the plane with you, provided that you either purchased it at the airport after having passed security, or if you brought your own bottle to refill at a water station. If you want to save money, it pays to bring an empty reusable bottle with you, as many airports now have free water fountains or refilling stations available past the security check. 

Can I Bring Chips Through Airport Security?

Since chips fall under packaged goods, it’s usually no problem bringing them in. Whether they are potato chips, tortilla chips, or even organic kale chips, chips of all types are welcome on the plane. Just remember not to munch on them while everyone is sleeping! The sound can be very distracting.

Can I Bring Alcohol Onto the Plane?

Alcohol on a plane can be very tricky. Alcoholic beverages obviously must follow the 3-1-1 limitation as well, but that is not the only issue. If the beverage is more than 140 proof, they cannot be packed in your carry-on or in your checked in luggage — so better leave those high-proof vodka and rum bottles behind!

Can I Take Sealed Food or Canned Food Through Airport Security?

Most types of sealed food in plastic or foil packets can be brought through airport security. Canned food however, is much trickier. This is because canned foods typically contain some kind of liquid in them, which must follow the 3-1-1 rule. Additionally, cans do not X-ray well and are difficult to verify, which poses a security risk.

If you absolutely must bring canned goods on the plane, pack them in your checked-in luggage. Unfortunately, snacking on a tin of tuna or can of beans is not an option on the plane.

Can I Take Homemade Food Through Airport Security?

Homemade chopped salad in a bowl
Image by Jeffrey Betts

While it should be easy to bring homemade food onto the plane, some choices can be tricky. Packaged snacks such as bread, cereals, candies, and crackers usually go through with no problem, but if you want to prepare your own food, you have to be careful with how you pack it and how much liquid it contains.

Saucy or soupy dishes are obviously a no-go, so you can’t bring your grandma’s special spaghetti bolognese on board. While sandwiches are often not a problem, you still have to be careful with your condiments. Most security personnel will let it go through, but if there is liquid pooling at the bottom of the container they may ask you to throw it out.

When you pack your food, be sure to place it in an air-tight, leak-proof, and resealable container. Pack extra plastic wrap if needed. 

But what about aluminum? Can you bring aluminum foil on a plane? Well, food wrapped in foil is usually acceptable, but it may cause extra security checks. So better opt for clear containers to allow security to screen the foods quickly.

And of course, always be mindful your fellow passengers. Avoid packing foods that have a strong scent — you don’t want people to be complaining about the stench during the flight.

Can I Take Fresh Foods on the Plane?

Fresh foods such as raw meat, seafood, fresh fruit, vegetables, and even eggs are usually fine to bring in your carry-on luggage so long as they are sealed to prevent any smells and juices from leaking out. While you will probably not end up snacking on these items, it's perfectly fine to bring food on the plane with you. 

However, this is only true for domestic flights — international flights are typically very strict with fresh foods, especially fruit and vegetables. These measures are in place to prevent the introduction of invasive species or diseases into new environments. 

But can you take fruit snacks on a plane? That depends. Processed fruit such as raisins or dates are usually not an issue if in a sealed bag, but airline requirements may vary. Always check with immigration and customs first if you plan on bringing fresh foods onto the plane. 

What If I Need To Bring Food For My Baby?

Baby food, juice, and fruit.
Image by Maple Horizon

If you are traveling with a child of up to two years old, airlines will allow you to bring your own food — and let you bring as much as you need! They have relaxed the rules for bringing items like juice, milk, and baby food onto the plane so that you can feed and care for your child.

But don’t forget to declare it! Even if it is just baby food or powdered formula, you must declare it with customs to prevent any holdups.

While food, breast milk, distilled water, and other baby items are excluded from the 3-1-1 rule, security officers still expect you to bring a reasonable amount that is just enough for your trip. Keep the items in an accessible area, as they will likely be subject to additional screening. Expect security personnel to prod, open, and sniff the containers.

Enjoy Your Meal!

Traveling with food can make the long waits at the airport and your plane ride much more pleasant. Though it takes a little bit of work to make sure that it complies with airline policies, it’s worth it if it means eating what you like and not complaining about a grumbling stomach.

Still unsure about what food can go through airport security? If there is something that you are not sure about, you can always contact the airline and ask them directly. If you are traveling to or within the US, you can even download the MyTSA app, where you can take a photo of your item and ask them if you are allowed to bring it through security.

So don’t fret and feel free to bring your own snacks on the plane. Once you are boarded, all that is left is for you to enjoy your meal.

Flight delays happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept them. You may be entitled to a much as $700 in compensation. If your flight was delayed, canceled, or overbooked within the last three years.

Header image by congerdesign

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