Frequent flyers be aware that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may start asking you to take snacks out of your bag so an agent can get a closer look at your goodies, according to Today.com.
Why the increased inspections.
For years, the TSA has been evolving its security screening procedures, including larger electronics such as laptops, liquids, batteries, and shoes. In addition to these items, TSA has now stated that passengers may also be asked to remove other items, such as food and powders from carry-ons because those additional items may clutter bags and obstruct the X-ray scanner from getting a better image.
The Washington Post reported that new, high-tech scanners search for organic compounds in explosives, which sometimes leads to false alarms when scanning food items. As a result, an agent may need to do a hands-on bag check, which makes the screening process slower.
Though not mandatory—there has been no nationwide policy change requiring people to remove food from their carry-ons to get through security—as of yet, more travelers have been noticing the enhanced security measures recently, and many others are claiming they’ve had their snacks inspected before flying. A TSA representative commented, “This isn’t always necessary, but it does help X-ray operators get a clearer view of the contents of the bag and speeds up the screening process.”
Plan ahead to remove food.
That said, as removing foods from your carry-on and placing them in a bin takes additional time, it’s a good idea to plan ahead in preparation. The TSA recommends organizing your bags with the screening process in mind, which they say will help keep lines moving.
Place snacks where they are easy to access in case you need to remove them. One travel blogger noted, “It is much easier to remove one large Ziploc bag where all the snacks are contained than it is to hunt in 14 different pockets for snacks scattered across your luggage.”
It’s important to note that the snack-related security changes won’t affect the type of foods you can carry with you, which include cakes, pies, bread, doughnuts, fruits and vegetables (when flying domestically).
Passengers are permitted to bring outside food on planes, although there are restrictions on fresh produce and meats when traveling to some international destinations, and any food that could be considered a liquid (including spreads like peanut butter) can only be carried on in servings of less than 3.4 ounces.
Once passengers have successfully passed through security, their food is safe from any other inspection.
The TSA website gives information on what is and is not permitted on flights, so it’s always beneficial to plan ahead as much as possible. If you’re not sure if your food item is allowed (lobsters are, by the way, but ice cream is not), search the TSA’s What Can I Bring? list.
Also read these additional flight packing tips:
Get a good carry-on bag.
It’s called a 22″ spinner carry-on bag. It’s the bag you see speedily rolling behind many pilots and flight attendants as they make their way to their next gate. Look for a sturdy, well-designed but lightweight bag with roomy pockets and a wide wheelbase. Spinner carry-ons get their name because of their four wheels. Bags with four wheels are easier to move around than those with just two. Airlines require carry-on bags that are small enough to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Maximum size limits are typically 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall and 40 pounds. That’s why the 22″ spinner is a popular carry-on size. Most airlines allow you to carry on one small bag plus one personal item, including a laptop, purse or briefcase as long as it doesn’t exceed 36″ total and fits under the seat in front of you.
Understand what you can pack.
While you’re allowed to carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag, there are restrictions you must be aware of before you pack. According to the TSA website, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or rolled up are not allowed. All liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. For more details about what you can carry on an airplane, visit TSA.gov/311.
Utilize all the space.
The key to maximizing space in a 22″ spinner carry-on is to roll your clothes into “tubes” instead of folding and stacking them like they do on shelves. Rolling saves space and also helps prevent wrinkles. It’s also easier to select what you want to wear from your bag without unpacking the whole thing. Roll several items together to prevent more wrinkles. Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier things such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.
Wear your nice, and harder to pack clothes and shoes on the plane. They won’t wrinkle or take up space in your carry-on. Even if you’re able to pack everything you want in the bag, keep in mind the typical 40 pound weight limit.