Slideshow: You Can't Take That Through Security! Or Can You?

You Can't Take That Through Security! Or Can You?

A terrorist scare involving liquid explosives in 2006 prompted the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ban all liquids and gels from carry-ons completely, severely limiting passenger-owned food and drink options for almost two months. Thankfully, airport security rules have become less strict in this particular regard since then. Today, you can virtually bring anything edible (liquid included) through outbound United States airport security as long as you observe size limits.

Sometimes, though, it's easy to forget what is and isn't covered by the regulations, and refuse bins on the outer side of security lines are full of cans, tubes, bottles, and more. Here is an up-to-date guide to which items of food and drink should be no-hassle for U.S. airport security and which items are better left in your checked luggage. "Should" is the operative word here, by the way: Even if a food is listed as TSA-approved, the final decision rests with the TSA officer on duty as to whether any given item will be allowed through security.

Yes: Alcohol Bottles, Miniature-Sized

Passengers are allowed to bring alcohol through security under the 100 ml limit (about 3.4 ounces). Miniature shot-sized bottles usually come in 50ml portions, thus making it a permissible carry-on should you insist on taking a few swigs on, before, or during the flight. Be aware, though, that airline regulations generally prohibit passengers to consume any alcohol on board that hasn't been served by the in-flight staff.

Yes: Gifts, Unwrapped and/or with Small Liquids

TSA recommends that all carry-on gift boxes be unwrapped and easy to open should security officials need to investigate the contents. Making sure that any liquids in the gift box — edible or otherwise — weigh 3.4 ounces or less will make procedures run more smoothly.

Yes: Bread

From a tiny slice to a full loaf, passengers are able to carry bread through security with no issues.

Yes: Breakfast Foods

Breakfast favorites such as pancakes, cooked eggs, sausage links, and the like are all permitted through security. Serving size amounts of syrup packets (less than 3.4 ounces) to accompany your meal are permissible as well.

Yes: Chips and Crackers

Passengers should have no problem bringing boxed or bagged crackers or chips of any kind through security checkpoints. If your bag of chips bursts open before hitting the security line, reach for a closeable bag or else it might not make it through screening.

Yes: Condiment Packets

Though this wasn't so about 10 years ago, passengers can bring through ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc. as long as it clocks in at less than 3.4 ounces. Grabbing a few small packets for an in-flight meal should do the trick.

Yes: Fruits, Whole and Fresh

Unpeeled fruits such as oranges, bananas, and other self-contained fruits are permitted; if any fruit has been peeled or partially eaten, it must be wrapped before going through security.

Yes: Pies and Cakes

As long as they aren't gift-wrapped and security officials can easily see the contents, pies and cakes are wholly admissible with no major restrictions. 

Yes: Salads

Salads and greens of all kinds and sizes are permitted through security, as long as they are properly contained and can slide through security without making a mess.

Yes: Sandwiches

As long as your sandwich is wrapped properly and not smothered in more than 3.4 ounces of mustard or mayonnaise, you'll have no issue bringing through airport security.

Yes: Water bottles, Empty

An increasingly popular travel hack for bottle-carrying passengers is to wait until after security check to fill the bottle with water before boarding the flight (and more and more airports offer refrigerated fountains specifically for this purpose). If you're buying a new bottle of water at the airport, don't do it until you've gone through screening.


No: Alcohol Bottles, Large

Anything above the prescribed limit is not permitted through screening. Buy your large bottles from duty-free after passing through security or pack them properly and add to your checked luggage.

No: Cake Frosting, Large

If you want to give your pies and cakes an extra hit of icing for the plane ride, it's best to dab it on directly or put in a container that holds less than 3.4 ounces. Those large canisters of frosting will need to be checked-in.

No: Creamy Dips and Spreads, Large

Any servings of dips or spreads exceeding 3.4 ounces must be checked in; lesser amounts are OK. This includes soft cheeses, pâtés, peanut butter, and the like.

No: Fruits, Canned

A 16-ounce syrup-filled can of peach chunks won't make it through security. Unfortunately, even individual-size fruit cups tend to contain just over the legal limit, so it's best to place all canned fruits into your checked luggage.

Maybe: Gifts, Wrapped

Though allowed, wrapped gifts will incite TSA security to look into the contents, and your pretty packaging might suffer in the process. A gift box with more than 3.4oz liquid containers is a definite no-no. If possible, place gifts in an easy-open gift bag instead, wait to wrap gifts until after the flight, or check them.


No: Oils and Vinegars, Large

There aren't many bottles of oil and vinegar sold in small containers, so these are best packed securely in your luggage (put them in large sealable plastic bags in case of leakage).

No: Salad Dressings, Large

You can't bring large bottles of oil or vinegar through the checkpoint so it makes sense that you can't bring large bottles of oil and vinegar through either. You probably won't need salad dressing for the flight anyway (most airlines cover the basic dressing for long-haul meals), so if you're bringing it along for any reason, into the checked bags it goes.

No: Salsas and Sauces, Large

While chips and crackers are easily approved through security, it isn't so for dips and sauces, which will need to adhere to the 3.4-ounce rule, or else need to be checked-in.

No: Soups, Large

Soups are liquids and liquids have limits. If bought before going through security, it won't make it past the screening machine. (We know somebody who had a can of chili confiscated; the TSA agent shook it and it sloshed enough to be pronounced liquid and seized.)