Airline food can be pretty bad these days. Actually it may not be available at all on some airlines, and even if it is, you may have to pay a crazy amount for it. It is no wonder then that people may decide to take some food on a plane with them in their carry on bag.
You are allowed to bring many different types of food in your carry on, either to eat during the flight or to take to your destination, provided they are not treated as liquids. Solid foods are fine but some foodstuff, such as gels, may actually considered a liquid under the rules.
You should remember that these restrictions apply to what you can take through airport security, and not necessarily what you can actually take on board the plane with you. For example, if there are stores at the airport, after passing through airport security, then you can buy anything there to take on board with you (water, drinks, snacks, sandwiches etc). So bear this in mind when you wonder can you bring food on a plane.
Due to the Covid19 situation the TSA has updated its rules regarding taking food through security in order to try and eliminate cross contamination.
If you do not follow these rules they say you will have to repack your carry on bags and then rejoin the line at the back – so getting it right first time will certainly make your passage through security quicker.
They state the following:
Separate food for X-ray screening. Passengers should place their carry-on food items into a clear plastic bag and place that bag into a bin. Food items often trigger an alarm during the screening process; separating the food from the carry-on bag lessens the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag and remove the food items for a closer inspection. This requirement allows social distancing, reduces the TSA officer’s need to touch a person’s container of food and reduces potential for cross-contamination. TSA Precheck members do not need to remove items from their bags. See the full article – TSA prepared for summer travelers with updated security procedures
First, what food can you take take in your carry on
You can take the following types of food on a plane, mostly without restriction:
- Bottled water, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml so probably not worth bothering with. You can of course buy water after the security checkpoint
- Candy, provided they are not considered as liquid. So things like hard candy, chocolate etc would all be allowed.
- Canned food, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml under the liquids rule
- Cheese. If solid then yes. If cream cheese then that would be classed as a liquid so must be less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Coffee, if beans or ground
- Cooked meat and seafood
- Creamy dips and spreads, if but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Dried fruits
- Fresh eggs
- Fresh fruit and vegetables. (Passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland cannot take most fresh fruits and vegetables. This is due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.)
- Fresh meat and seafood. You should be aware though that if the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or some other container, then the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when going through airport security. If they are even partially melted, and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.
- Frozen food. If the food is packed in a cooler or some other container, then the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when going through airport security. If they are even partially melted, and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.
- Gravy. Yes if in powder form but if liquid then only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Honey, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Ice cream, yes, but why would you? If any has melted it will be treated as a liquid.
- Jam and jelly, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Live lobster. Incredibly yes, but in my opinion it should not be allowed (unless it is a pet perhaps)!
- Maple syrup, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Oils and vinegar, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Peanut butter, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Pet food, solid and dried
- Pet food, wet, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Pies and cakes
- Salad dressing, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Salsa and sauces, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Snacks (assuming they are not liquids or gets)
- Solid foods
- Soups, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
- Spices (dried)
- Tea (tea bags or loose leaf tea)
- Yogurt, but only if less than 3.4oz/100ml
Any items above that may be subject to the liquid rule of being less than 3.4oz/100ml must be carried through airport security in a quart sized bag with any other liquids (perfume etc) and only one bag is allowed per passenger. See our full explanation of the 3-1-1 liquids rule.
Although the above are allowed, you may find that some require additional screening when passing through airport security.
This is the current full food list on the TSA website
Can you take baby food on a plane?
If you are traveling with a baby or a toddler then the liquid rules are relaxed. You may take a reasonable quantity of baby food on a plane as well as baby formula, sterilized water, juice and breast milk through airport security and on the flight with you.
These do not have to go in the same quart sized liquids bag as other items but it is advised to have them all in one bag to show to the security agent easily when passing through airport security.
Passengers with nut allergies
If you bring nuts on board with you in your carry on, which can be in any form, even a chocolate bar containing nuts then there may be a passenger on board with a severe nut allergy (which can be fatal).
If this is the case then the cabin crew will make an announcement at the start of the flight telling you that such a person is on board and ask everyone on board not to eat or even unwrap any food item containing nuts.
This has happened to me a number of times when flying and, ironically, it always seems to happen on the few times I do take food with me to eat that contains nuts.
Can you bring food on a plane in your suitcase?
You may carry any food stuff in your checked bags apart from alcoholic beverages which are over 140 proof (70% ABV). So if there are food stuffs that you simply cannot live without while you are on your trip then you will be happy.
If you are traveling internationally you should check what restrictions there may be on foodstuffs being taken into the country you are traveling to. Australia for example has quite strict rules on what foodstuff can be brought in.
What food are you not allowed to take in carry on?
Well nothing really. Those foods which are liquid, or which may be considered a liquid, will be subject to the liquids rules as detailed in the above list. Apart from that you can take anything.
Because of the strict rules regarding liquids, if you want to take soft drinks (soda, juice, water etc) on board with you then you would be best to buy them in a shop at the airport after you pass through airport security. You can take liquids over 3.4oz/100ml on to the aircraft with you provided they are purchased after security.
I am not aware of any airlines which will not allow you to take your own food on a plane to eat but it may be worth checking your airline’s website to see if they are an exception. Even if there are some airlines which will not allow food to be consumed that has been carried on board this would not apply to anyone who had food allergies or any particular dietary restrictions.
There is nothing to stop you bringing very strong smelling and spicy foods to eat on board. However, please be aware that the smells may not be very nice for other passengers around you to smell. So be considerate with what you take with you.
What food can you take on an international flight?
Really you can take the same food on board that is given above as long as you are going to eat it on board before you arrive at your destination.
If you intend to take it into the country you are traveling to then there may be restrictions. Many countries (including the US) have policies restricting things like meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and some cheeses because of the potential for spreading insects or diseases.
Whether the food is allowed into a country or not, it is likely that you will have to declare all foodstuff you have with you on a customs declaration. These forms will normally be given to you to complete by the cabin crew before you land. If you don’t declare something, even if it is allowed, may result in a fine and/or confiscation.
Australia is particular strict on what food stuffs it allows in the country. I remember a passenger in front of me once at Australian customs who was fined quite heavily for having an apple core in his bag. The apple was given to him to eat by the cabin crew and he just put the core in his bag when he had finished!
So look up the customs rules for the country you are traveling to to find out what specific rules they may have before you travel.
The “MyTSA App”
The TSA now have an app you can download that works with both Apple and Android devices which, as well as other useful information, allows you to find out if a specific food item can be taken through security.
You can download the app here – MyTSA App
If you found this article on Are you allowed to bring food in your carry on? useful then please check out my other airport security articles.